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Workplace teams have become common as businesses look for ways to encourage collaboration and innovation and decentralize problem-solving. But you can't just throw people together and expect them to work well as a team. Effective teamwork requires open communication, alignment on meaningful goals, well-defined work processes and the ability for team members to manage conflict constructively.
Workplace teams communicate on multiple levels, starting with internal communication. For the best ideas to emerge, team members must know that they are empowered to offer their views and that differing opinions are welcome. Teams also communicate externally – with other teams in the organization, with upper management and with clients or business partners. In external communications, it's important for team members to deliver a consistent message, so that all outside parties have a clear picture of where the team stands.
Just as individuals need something to shoot for, work teams need concrete, meaningful goals. A key difference is that the team has shared goals that motivate all team members to work together. Participating actively in the development of team goals can help an individual team member stay motivated. Specific outcomes, such as completion of a product development task, as well as concrete deadlines that drive performance, are critical to effective team goals.
Defined Work Processes
A key task in team development is assigning duties and responsibilities, establishing work processes and defining accountability. The team should agree on deadlines and schedule regular meetings to keep members aligned, identify and correct problems and talk through any necessary changes. Clear work processes help all workers understand their roles within the team and their requirements to collaborate as projects move along. Members should understand the importance of defined work processes and stick to them. If team members think they see problems, the solution is to bring them to the full team's attention, not to improvise a personal solution that could foul up the workflow.
Constructive Conflict Resolution
Mutual accountability and complementary skills drive team success. All team members need to accept that they are a part of something broader than themselves and recognize that when other members push them, it is for the team's benefit. This is why conflict resolution skills are so valuable within a workplace team. Team members must be able to remain calm and professional when discussing differences, and choose the appropriate way to manage and resolve conflicting ideas or viewpoints. This might include backing down when another team member is especially passionate about an idea. Complementary skills usually benefit a team by providing a broader range of abilities. It is important that each member recognize the value of every other member's skills.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.