Instead of telling the same old stories over and over againbest Teamwork Practicefrom companies like Google, Chevron or Southwest Airlines (which don't really help if you have a small to medium sized team), we decided to find real examples of successful teamwork.
We asked everyday entrepreneurs, CEOs, and HR managers a simple question:
How have you improved teamwork in your organization?
Here are the top 9 examples we've come across.
Onboarding in 3 steps
The development of teamwork should begin as soon as the new employee walks through the door. AccordinglyLauren McAdams, Career Advisor and HR ManagerLebenslaufCompanion.com, the most successful way to create great relationships within the team has been to instill a sense of teamwork early in the onboarding process.
“As we experiment with different team building activities, there are three that have become common practice:
First, we have new hires accompanied by an experienced “coach” during onboarding, who has the task of helping them integrate into the team. After the initial phase, we assign the new employees to accompany other people so that they have more than one "coach".
Next, when we start a new project, I personally assign mini-teams to handle those projects. These smaller units are often made up of employees who have not had the opportunity to work together. This gives new hires the opportunity to work and build relationships with everyone they work with.
Finally, leadership on these projects rotates, giving different people the opportunity to test their leadership skills. Since project teams always consist of different people, everyone in the company gets to know each other at some point through working together. This level of openness and collaboration led to very strong teamwork in our company.”
Some organizations encourage their employees to walk a mile in the shoes of others.Lee Fischer, Head of HR atblinds direct, says that successful teamwork should be based on solidarity, respect, communication and mutual understanding. With this in mind, his company has organized a number of team building events over the years.
“Our most unconventional event so far was the 'Role Switch'. It was launched through our web andmarketing department. In this case, each team member swaps roles with a colleague. Typically, team members work closely together, but they don't really understand the complexities of each other's role.
Spending a day in your colleague's shoes underscores their efforts, leading to greater understanding and respect for one another. The "Role Switch" was a great success: it brought the team closer together and made it more considerate of othersworkload and requirements.“
Sharing experiences with your peers is important, but even more important is recognizing where they can best help you improve. AccordinglySteven Benson, Founder and CEO ofbadger cards, his company has benefited from a self-initiated cross-training session that has resulted in increased teamwork and productivity.
“An example of successful teamwork at our company was when the customer care department put together an initiative of cross-training and specialized team members for different roles. After deciding who will focus on what, the group sat down and taught each other what it would take to become the expert in their respective fields.
Because employees were cross-trained, they had a broader range of skills to use in customer interaction—resulting in fewer handoffs. This not only improved teamwork and productivity, but also customer satisfaction. Everyone worked as a team and covered each other, which made everything go smoothly and quickly."
The Big Book of Team Culture
This article is just a small part of our big book on team culture. Get this free e-book and learn what makes a great team, how to improve teamwork, what it means to be a leader in a modern workplace, and how to create a positive team culture—all in one place.
Planned breaks and self-reflection
Reflecting on achievements in public boosts everyone's morale.Bryan Koontz, CEO ofGuidefitterFor him, teamwork is more than thatBrainstorming Ideasor helping a colleague with a project - it's all about fostering a culture of trust and respect.
“One of the ways we create an environment of trust and respect is through meetings, or rather “breaks” that aren’t necessarily focused on work. By scheduling “break” times in our calendars, we allow our employees to converse, relax and discuss the specifics of their day.
We also strengthen our teams through short weekly meetings with the entire office: every Wednesday morning we summarize to review the past week, with each employee sharing a professional and a personal "win". This encourages everyone to take a break to reflect on their accomplishments, which often serves as motivation for their colleagues while also building a bond between our team members.”
members ofgelled teamshave a strong sense of identity and often share traditions such as getting together for an after work drink. AccordinglyKaterina TrajchevskaCo-founder and CEO ofAdeva, establishing team traditions is the foundation on which teamwork is built.
“Rather than empowering our team with a specific method, we focus on creating an environment that fosters team spirit and communication. We organize after-hours drinks and hangouts, and develop a culture that encourages everyone to speak up and participate in the big decisions for the company.
Team traditions can work wonders, no matter how trivial they may seem: we have a team meal every Friday, celebrate birthdays and other important dates, and celebrate one of our national holidays together. All of this has contributed to a more cohesive and close-knit team.”
Unconventional business meetings
Some companies use their business meetings to improve teamwork within the organization by being fun and relaxed.James Lloyd-Townshend, CEO ofFrank recruitment groupbelieves that bringing teams together in an informal setting improves teamwork, strengthens bonds and boosts morale - which is why he decided to spice up the company's monthly meetings.
“One unusual practice we've introduced is First Thursdays: we start our monthly business meetings with a business review, promotions and awards – and then move on to an open bar event.
In addition to First Thursdays, we also have Lunch Club: another monthly event where employees enjoy a fully paid afternoon to celebrate their success, enjoy good food and have fun with their co-workers.
However, the most popular team building method we use is our animated weekends. Our top performing consultants get the chance to travel to major cities like London, New York and Miami as a reward for their hard work.”
Some companies arebuild teamworkthrough peer recognition.Jakob Dayan, a partner and co-founder ofcommunity taxsaid that encouraging employees to take an active part in recognizing their peers has proven to be a fairly powerful motivational tool.
"I ask employees to share or report instances where someone on their team or another team has been particularly helpful or went above and beyond their call of duty. After thanking the contributor for their input, we make sure the honored employee knows the source of the information. When employees “nominate” their peers for recognition, it has the added benefit of bringing them closer together and building camaraderie with long-term productivity benefits.”
However, Mr. Dayan recognizes that peer reviews and nominations may be driven by personal feelings (both positive and negative) and may unrealistically portray the contribution of specific employees.
“Personal relationships, both close and less so, are an important aspect of pursuing this approach, which is why we do not give recognition without confirming the worthiness of the employee's contribution. We ask the relevant manager to review the submission and keep an eye on it over time just to make sure there is no dubious activity.”
Successful teamwork occurs when members of a group trust each other, feel comfortable and resolve conflicts effectivelyLaura MacLeod, licensed social worker with a focus on group work, HR consultant and thought leader behind it"Inside Out Project".
“Many companies think that team building is about company picnics, happy hours and other fun events. These things are fine, but they don't address the real problems people face when they need to work together. Going out for drinks with someone you don't get along with will be just as uncomfortable and embarrassing as trying to complete a project with that person — the only difference is having alcohol as a buffer.”
According to Laura sureteam building exercisescan help individualsovercome both group-internal and personal conflicts.
“Choose simple activities that help build cohesion and trust between team members. For example, you can use the exercise “Mime in a circle”: without words, pass an imaginary object (a bucket of water or a ball) around in a circle. The point of the exercise is that group members rely on each other to complete the activity.
When it comes to personal misunderstandings, you might want to choose an activity that actually allows you to yell at someone. So put people together and have them repeat opposite phrases (e.g. it's hot/it's cold) back and forth - from softly to very loudly. This will allow people to express strong emotions in a non-threatening way while blowing off some steam.”
"Flawless" team building exercise
Dimitri Kara, tenancy law expert atFantastic cleaners, shared a team building exercise his team uses to increase collaboration and efficiency.
“Everyone in the office has to do a 2-5 minute cleaning routine (e.g. wipe desk, keyboard, monitor, shelves) at the same time. But there's a catch: the tools are limited. For example, have everyone dust their desks at the same time, but only provide 2 sprayers and 1 roll of paper towel (if your team is 10 members)-. Scarcity will encourage people to share and help each other.”
Aside from obvious benefits (like a cleaner work environment), Dmitri says this team building activity boosts organization, improves long-term productivity, and develops a sense of morale, discipline, and shared responsibility. He even shares how the exercise came about:
“Initially it wasn't really a dedicated exercise. The first time we did everything together it was for a video shoot. But because it felt good, a few days later someone said, "Let's do that again." And that’s where the whole thing came from.”