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How to foster teamwork in a small business

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How to Foster Teamwork in a Small Business.

Being on a Division I lacrosse team for four years teaches a person invaluable lessons in time management, organization, and work ethic. It provides experiences and opportunities that many people are never exposed to. Above all else it teaches you how a team works, what makes it function on a day-to-day basis. It teaches you how different personality dynamics have the ability to work toward a common goal.

Being the captain of that team provides yet another level of exposure to team dynamics. Conflict-resolution becomes a priority and it becomes your job to make sure that no one has lost site of the team’s goal in pursuit of his or her own individual goals. Sometimes there is a team member that has to be knocked down a peg. Sometimes there is a team member that needs to be lifted up. And, sometimes in order to keep everyone on board you simply have to make sure they are enjoying themselves.

foster teamwork inside 2On Fridays in the fall my team would break up into small teams and compete in games other than lacrosse (i.e. kickball, dodge ball, steal the flag, etc.). This allowed us to stay competitive and continue to foster teamwork but also let loose. I thought when I hung up my cleats I would never be a part of a team again, but I was wrong. Teams in the workplace are similar to teams on the field. Everyone’s jobs are interrelated and just like on the lacrosse field, a team can lose if anyone is not doing their job.

Any team will lose if everyone isn't doing their job #SmallBusiness Click To Tweet

A huge focus in large corporations is teamwork. Often they are able to hire outside consultants that can foster teamwork and ensure that their problem-solving abilities are up to par. However, small businesses do not often have this luxury. Some people make the mistake of believing that teamwork is easier to foster in a small setting, and that it does not need much work to maintain.

Big businesses and small businesses face different challenges in regards to teamwork, but challenges exist in both settings nonetheless. For instance, personal conflicts in small businesses may seem exponentially bigger and can loom over everyone. Small teams also rely closely on the work that each person does, more so than a big business would. People spend a lot of time in the office or at their job so it is important that they feel comfortable and motivated. It is managers and small business owner’s jobs to foster teamwork by leveraging the intimacy that comes with the small setting.

Provide Clarity

foster teamwork inside 1It is not uncommon for people to have different views on what the company’s ultimate goal may actually be. It is imperative that it is not only clearly stated at the start, but that it is reiterated consistently so that no one loses sight of the goal. Once clarity is provided it is easier to start the process of having the team members’ buy-in to the process.

Providing clarity also includes having team members understand what their expectations and directions are. They also must understand how their performance and their team’s performance will be evaluated. This direction comes in the form of feedback, which should be given directly to employees. By providing clarity to all the aspects of one’s role and responsibilities the team members will also start to understand how they are providing value to the team.

Providing clarity to team members roles will show them how they're providing value. #teamwork Click To Tweet

Problem Management Processes Established Prior to Conflicts

Regardless of the size of the business disagreements are bound to happen. This means that disruptions will occur. Though the level of disruption that the team experiences depends on the style of management that is used to handle the disagreement. Above all else, members should not be penalized for disagreeing in a constructive manner. Disagreements and debates about how to solve a problem often leads to innovation and creativity. Team members must feel like open communication in their work environment is acceptable. Fostering teamwork in an environment that includes everyone to work toward a mutual resolution will empower them to work together to make decisions in the future as well.

Reward Everyone Equally for Team/Group Success

foster teamwork winner imageThe reward at the end of a lacrosse game is the win. The reward for everyone working on a project or toward a goal at work should also be the same. There may be individual rewards or incentives along the way, but if the team is successful then everyone’s reward should be the same. The converse is also true. Employees must feel like they have authority over the project they are working on. Not only will their morale be improved but they will also feel more passionate about the work they are doing. Giving extra responsibilities to team members can also help them feel like their work is more rewarding.

Teamwork Activities

Similar to our Friday’s during off-season when we let loose to enjoy a game of kickball, teamwork activities in the workplace can achieve the same results. They are not completely pointless in terms of working towards a bigger picture. They foster problem-solving skills, allow team members to be more comfortable around each other, and bring out a competitive side of people. There are hundreds of activities on the Internet, a few include:

  • Puzzles: Each group gets a 100-piece puzzle and has 10 minutes to complete it; if a team finishes before the time is up they are the automatic winners. This forces employees to strategize and find common ground to complete the task at hand. At the end of the activity you can talk about each teams strategy and what they would do differently the next time.
  • Back-to-Back Drawing: One person gets an image and the other gets a blank notepad and a pen. The individual with the image describes it without explicitly saying what it is for the other to draw in a given amount of time. All groups compare their drawings at the end and management picks a winner.
  • Marshmallow/Spaghetti Tower: Each group will need 20 sticks of spaghetti, a roll of masking tape, a yard of string, and 1 marshmallow. The goal is to build the tallest tower in a given amount of time. The marshmallow has to be on the top and it must be able to stand-alone for a minimum of five seconds. For an excellent discussion on this, please view this TED talk.

Foster Diversity and Adaptability

All members bring diverse thoughts, experiences, and skills to the team. These should all be characteristics that are encouraged and rewarded through incentives when problem-solving to accomplish as task. Management must be open to new ways of thinking and out of the ordinary suggestions. Sometimes these ideas could manifest as new solutions to old problems. Adaptability also includes not being rigid in terms of who is accomplishing what task. In certain situations one person may see a solution more clearly than another even if it means they have to cross the line of what their normal responsibilities include. The overall completion of the goal is what matters and this may even foster teamwork in a new, unusual way.

Managers must encourage diversity & ensure they are adaptable in their approaches #SmallBiz Click To Tweet

Small business owners work on various teams everyday whether it’s with their employees, clients, vendors, or suppliers. It is easy to get lost in trying to do individual tasks at hand when you own a business. However, there is always the opportunity to interact and communicate with team members more. Whether it’s on a field or in a conference room, when working toward a common goal everyone wins together and loses together. It is the leaders main responsibility to foster teamwork to ensure the team is winning much more often than it is failing.

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About Our Guest Author!

Halley Barnes is a graduate student at Rutgers University in the field of Communication. She recently graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication with a specialization in Public Relations and a dual minor in Digital Communication, Media, and Information and Psychology. She spent four years as a member of the division one Rutgers Women’s Lacrosse team where she served as the captain of the team her senior year. She was also named a member of the Big East All Academic team her freshman and sophomore years, and a member of the Big Ten All Academic team her junior and senior year. As an undergraduate student she made Dean’s List all eight semesters and was the keynote speaker at the 2015 Rutgers Alumni Leadership Conference. She was also inducted into various honor societies including Chi Alpha Sigma, National Society of Leadership and Success, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Halley loves traveling, trying new food, going hiking and kayaking, and spending time with her family.

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