As the old saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work. With that in mind, we take a look at a variety of ways in which you can support your team at work.
Working as part of a team can be both rewarding and challenging. With multiple sets of skills and experience to draw on, a dedicated team makes it easier to overcome obstacles and hit targets. Yet each person needs to feel included, valued, and part of a collective. So how do you support your team at work?
Whether as a leader or a member of a team, there are several ways in which you can support those around you. As well as looking at some of the steps you can take, we also take a look at why teamwork is important in the first place.
Why is teamwork important?
People are social creatures. Our ability to collaborate and coordinate to obtain otherwise inaccessible goals is unique, and part of why our species has been so successful. This evolutionary mechanism is still evident in modern times, seen across just about every aspect of our society. In the workplace, especially, it is important for team members to support each other. There are several reasons for this, including:
- It boosts creativity and performance. When people work together, it’s easier to brainstorm ideas and bring out creativity. What’s more, a 2015 report from consulting firm McKinsey found that diverse teams were up to 35% more creative and performed better than their homogenous counterparts.
- It reduces stress. According to the Harvard Business Review, successful teamwork, such as having extensive, constructive, and supportive discussions, can have positive effects. It helps to build interpersonal relationships and morale, as well as reduce stress.
- It helps build skills. When working together as part of a team, a variety of skill sets converge to complement each other. Individuals get a chance to combine their skills, learn from each other, and be more effective overall.
These are just some of the reasons why teamwork is so useful in the workplace. However, as many people experience, there can be some obstacles when you’re trying to support your team at work.
What are the obstacles to a strong team?
There’s a difference between a team working together and effective teamwork. After all, we all have our own thoughts and ideas on how things should be done, even if it’s a collaborative project. There can be some barriers that can prevent a group of individuals becoming an efficient team. And, one of the ways you can start to support at work is to be able to spot where things are going wrong.
- Poor communication. As we’ll see, the ability to communicate effectively plays a huge role in teamwork. Those who can’t remain on the same page and express their needs, thoughts, and feelings will find it hard to succeed as a team.
- Unclear goals. If everyone is pulling in a different direction, it’s hard to gain any traction. Teams without a clear aim in mind will soon become disengaged and disjointed.
- Lack of leadership. Leaders possess a range of skills that can help to motivate and focus a team. Without these skills, particularly among management, teams can soon fail.
- Lack of accountability. Each member of the team should have a role and know what’s expected of them. Without this, there will be confusion and a lack of cohesion.
How to support your team at work
There are many ways in which you can support your team at work, no matter what your role in that team is. For example, for managers, you may feel a greater degree of responsibility for those reporting into you. Yet even if you’re not in a management role, you can know how to support your team, and even your team leader, in the workplace.
Below, we’ve outlined ten ways you can do exactly that. These are just a few ideas you can try, and some relate to self-improvement, while others are more focused on helping your co-workers:
1) Communicate regularly
Open and honest communication is the foundation of a successful team. This is true whether it’s face-to-face or virtually, as it helps us build the interpersonal skills necessary for effective teamwork. Sharing ideas, points of view, information, and expertise helps to keep everyone informed and in the loop.
For managers and leaders, this means clearly communicating what needs to be done, what the latest successes are, and which areas need focus and attention. Communication is also about giving and receiving feedback, brainstorming ideas, and listening to one another.
For those not in a management role, communication is still vital. Touching base with those around you, whether senior, junior, or on the same level as you, helps establish connections. Doing so can help to build relationships, and means everyone gets a chance to express themselves and their ideas.
2) Check-in regularly
A laissez-faire approach to teamwork isn’t always the best solution. It can be tempting to just let people get on with their daily tasks and only check in with others when a crisis hits. Although micromanagement isn’t fun for anyone, regular catch-ups can be beneficial. Progress meetings for projects, as well as personal development, can help to keep everyone on the same page.
It’s a two-way process as well – leaders should make sure their team has access to regular and scheduled support and feedback, and everyone should take an active role in their own development.
You should also mentally check in with yourself every now and then. Trying to tune in to yourself and your feelings can make it easier to express your needs and your ideas when the time comes. Practices like mindfulness can be particularly helpful in identifying and assessing your inner feelings and experiences.
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3) Be inclusive
If you’re trying to support your team at work, it’s likely that there is a diverse range of people that you’ve got to appeal to. Although this range of personalities, mannerisms, and approaches can seem intimidating, these differences need to be celebrated.
It can be easy to dismiss or tune out ideas that don’t align with your own. However, doing so can be damaging to morale and cause tension, leaving others to feel unheard or disregarded. No matter what your role in your team is, you can support others by remembering the importance of balance.
Differing opinions and disagreements should be acknowledged and dealt with respectfully. Often, these can be learning opportunities and a chance for positive compromise and understanding. Everyone should have the confidence to be heard, and everyone can make an effort to be inclusive.
4) Learn to prioritise
Being able to plan out the essential tasks can make it easier to manage your work environment. Whether you’re prioritising your own work or that of your entire team, the process contributes towards the overall functioning of the group.
The work environment brings together a wide range of specialisations and knowledge. Often, the success of one area of the business relies on a host of other people completing their tasks. So, by prioritising your own work, you’re making sure that someone else can prioritise theirs. It’s also a useful way of keeping productive and making decisions.
Again, from the point of view of a leader, you can assist those around you by helping them prioritise their workload. This can make their workload seem more manageable and helps to support your team at work.
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5) Empower others
Empowering those around you is a highly efficient way of offering support to your team. Yet it’s not necessarily an easy term to define. Essentially, it’s giving others the opportunity to think for themselves, and to make decisions and take action based on their own judgement.
It’s a fairly nuanced way of supporting others, but there are several steps you can take to empower them. Delegation is often a key part of it, as it shows trust and faith in them. Similarly, you’ll want to define boundaries and expectations for how much freedom they have.
A crucial part of empowerment is giving appropriate and constructive feedback, making sure that the full impact of decisions and actions are discussed. Although this point focuses mainly on those in leadership roles, it’s possible for everyone to contribute to an environment where everyone feels empowered. Supporting discussion, ideas, and a positive work environment all contribute.
6) Work on your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is one of the most in-demand soft skills that employers are looking for at the moment. It’s not hard to see why. This skill is the ability to understand, use, and manage your emotions, as well as recognise how other people do the same. It’s often linked with empathy and social awareness and can help with collaboration and motivation in the workplace.
A 2012 study found that those with high levels of emotional intelligence ‘exhibit higher teamwork effectiveness (and subsequent job performance).’ Clearly, this is one of those people skills that bring all sorts of benefits. It’s characterised by self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
To work on your own emotional intelligence, you can observe how you react to people and try putting yourself in their place. You can also think about your work environment and how you respond to it. How do you react to stressful situations? And how can you take responsibility for your actions? This is a skill that can help support your team at work no matter what level of authority you hold.
7) Set reasonable goals
People like to know what their purpose is. In the workplace, collaboration relies on everyone having a shared set of goals and expectations. Working towards a common aim can unite people, engage them with the task at hand, and add enthusiasm to the process. This becomes particularly important when it comes to things like remote working.
That being said, having too much pressure to hit targets can have the opposite effect, leaving people feeling burned out and frustrated. It’s therefore important to have reasonable goals that the team as a whole can work towards. Similarly, each member should take responsibility for setting their personal goals, as this leads to things like accountability, growth, and career development.
This point links back to ones we’ve mentioned already. Setting goals relates to a feeling of empowerment, while it also relies on being able to prioritise what’s important.
8) Take breaks together
Breaks are an important part of everyone’s workplace routine. There are many benefits that come with taking them, and many negatives associated with not. Taking time away from your desk helps you to process and retain information, as well as boosting your creativity and productivity.
Taking your breaks with members of your team can help to build relationships and create a sense of togetherness. It doesn’t have to be a formal or even a regular arrangement, but it can help to keep everyone focused and motivated and encourage discussions and openness in the team. There have even been studies that show those who talk more with co-workers are more productive.
9) Focus on wellbeing
Taking into account individual wellbeing, both others’ and your own, is an essential way to support your team at work. We’ve already mentioned how important it is for people to feel heard, included, and valued. It’s also vital that everyone has a positive work/life balance and an environment where mental health and wellbeing can be openly discussed.
Promoting wellbeing benefits everyone, resulting in a healthier and more inclusive culture where people feel engaged and have better morale. There are many ways to focus on wellbeing, whether it’s taking a more active role in your own or encouraging other people to think about theirs. You can check out further details about wellbeing in the workplace at mind.org.uk.
10) Promote growth
The workplace should be a place where everyone has the opportunity to improve themselves and grow professionally. To support your team at work, try to cultivate an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable learning and developing.
From a leadership perspective, this could mean creating opportunities for mentoring, training, or learning on the job. By promoting the spreading of skills among your team, you can encourage them to learn from each other and solve problems together.
No matter what your level of responsibility is, you can help to create a working environment where people are willing to learn and to teach. Whether it’s through asking questions, helping others understand, or taking on further training, you can continue to grow.
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No matter what your role is in a team, it’s important that you support those around you, and that you feel supported in return. The benefits of doing so can be felt by everyone, both in their wellbeing and in the results they produce. Whether you’re in a leadership role or not, there are many ways that you can support your team at work.