An old cliché has it that there is no "I" in team. Like many well-worn phrases, that one holds a certain amount of truth — and not just in the literal spelling. In effect, a strong team emphasizes the group, not just one individual. The thinking is, when the team advances as a whole, so, too, does everyone within it.
That begs a question: How do you build a team that is characterized by strong, coordinated teamwork?
It's not as difficult as you might assume — particularly if you adopt an anticipatory mindset.
Break down the challenges
The obstacles that organizations face in fostering teamwork can be highly specific, depending on the particulars of the industry, the culture of the organization and the individuals involved. However, Harvard Business Review's Answer Exchange offers a useful list of eight challenges that teams often encounter:
Taken on its own, that can be a daunting set of obstacles. But certain core principles of my Anticipatory Organization Model™ can effectively address all of these issues and create a well-coordinated, focused team:
Step one: Communicate, don't just inform
One of the biggest stumbling blocks in helping to create a solid team is effective communication. Take a quick glance back at the list above—every one of those issues can be traced in some manner to poor communication.
The reason is simple — instead of genuinely communicating, we can all fall into the trap of merely informing.
Let's break that down a bit. Informing is one-way and static. It merely passes along information without any related form of action. When you inform someone, you're not even sure if they agree with you or not.
Communication, on the other hand, flows in both directions and is dynamic. The dialogue is genuine, and an enhanced level of engagement results. In effect, you wish to hear as much as you wish to speak.
As a leader, it's simple to promote that sort of environment. Whether you're chatting one-on-one or participating in a large group meeting, set the tone by being as active a listener as you are a speaker. You'll get better results and, at the same time, offer an ideal example to those around you.
Step two: Collaborate, don't just cooperate
The terms collaborate and cooperate might seem rather similar but their differences are both distinct and meaningful. It's amazing how many companies and organizations say they are collaborating when, in reality, they are only cooperating. That's because they don't know the difference, and in this case, the difference can make all the difference.
People cooperate because they have to. And because they have to, the focus is on protecting and defending their piece of the economic pie. It's a strategy based on scarcity.
On the other hand, people collaborate because they want to. You choose to collaborate because you understand that by working together you can create a bigger pie for all. It's inclusive and expansive.
Need examples? In technology, Apple, Microsoft, Google and others can attribute much of their early success to strategic partnerships with competitors. Likewise, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly collaborating to share resources and information to develop and distribute life-saving medications.
In many ways, collaboration and communication are closely intertwined. It makes sense — if you're communicating effectively with someone else, you're more likely to build the level of trust with which collaboration flourishes. By fostering effective communication, you're also building a collaborative environment and, in the process, a stronger team.
Step three: Use the tools
One fortunate factor that can help build communication, collaboration and a better team is that we have so many tools with which to approach the challenge. Consider our smartphones, Skype, FaceTime, Twitter and any number of other devices and platforms. They're tied to the moniker "social" for a very good reason — encourage their use, dialogue and engagement.
There are a great many effective strategies with which to build a strong team, one that's characterized by communication and collaboration. Build those two competencies, and all those smaller, more defined challenges will likely melt away.