Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Slack, Zoom, and many other applications have become the primary way to keep team members connected and in the know when it comes to everything that everyone is doing. And synergy is not a fad or a way to lower overhead costs. Extensive research confirms that when people work smart and in unison, it can boost productivity, creativity, engagement, communication, and efficiency—all words that should be music to your ears as a business owner.
A Team is Stronger than the Sum of its Members
In the competitive digital age, all businesses need to focus on efficiency to drive the bottom line. Now more than ever, teamwork is what any small business needs to succeed.
Synergy is crucial to maximize your staff and make sure everyone is as productive as possible by bringing out each other’s best in the workplace. But what is synergy? Well, by definition, synergy is “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects” (Waite, 2012). This means that while all your team members individually might be great at what they do, when they come together they should be even better than the sum of their individual results.
An easy way to visualize this is by imagining that you have three employees, and you ask them to load a truck with boxes from your warehouse. If each one goes back and forth carrying boxes, they will get the job done, but it would take much longer than if they create a chain and pass the boxes from hand to hand in a single row to get them all flowing into the truck much faster. Now, this was a very basic example to demonstrate how synergy and teamwork go hand-in-hand. But the growth of the result can be exponential when everyone in your business works together towards the same goal. And that is when teamwork makes the dream work.
Everyone Makes Unique Contributions
John J. Murphy, a business transformation specialist and author of Pulling Together: 10 Rules for High-Performance Teamwork, believes that “each individual has unique gifts, talents and skills. When we bring them to the table and share them for a common purpose, it can give companies a real competitive advantage” (2016). Therefore, it is crucial to make sure that you build your teams, keeping everyone’s unique skills in mind. Think of it as a large puzzle, where everyone has many unique pieces that need to come together to build a single image. It is important to note that redundant pieces are of no use when building a puzzle. So, having a team made up of extraordinary individuals, where they all have the same skill sets, may not be as productive as bringing together individuals with complementary skills to build off one another. After all, as a team leader, it is essential to understand that one person’s weakness might be another’s strength.
A Team Should Support Each Other
A Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% “feel burned out at work” very often or always, while another 44% say they sometimes feel this way (Wigert & Agrawal, 2020). That’s where the teamwork makes the dream work. Because it’s been proven that team members can provide emotional support to each other by sharing the workload. Not only do they understand the demands and stress of the job, but they can also build a sense of camaraderie while helping each other out. This, in return, makes the team much more robust as they grow together.
You may be thinking that this is all great for the business, but what is in it for the employees? Why would they want to collaborate to help the company be successful? It turns out that many studies show how team members benefit just as much as the companies they work for. In 2018, American Psychologist released “The Science of Teamwork”—an entire special issue dedicated to the psychology of collaboration—showcasing 20 articles demonstrating the importance of teamwork in a wide variety of workplace settings; with evidence that cooperation can make the team smarter, more creative, and thus, more successful (McDaniel et al., 2018).
Recipe for Success
There are a few ingredients required to build a dream team. But keep in mind that even if your existing team doesn’t seem to have all of these teamwork components, these are skills that can be learned and improved. As a team leader, you must determine which members need the most work and focus on those first. As was the case with a Chicago-based workshop that helps people customize lights for their homes and businesses. When the owner first approached Marcus in 2018, she had a financially healthy company. Her issue was that she didn’t know how to scale the business.
Marcus noticed that part of the problem was that the management structure and business model posed some organizational issues that many small businesses suffer from. One of which is that employees didn’t have official titles, job descriptions, sufficient wages, goals, or development paths. This was causing a high turn-over, and high-turnovers are the kryptonite that breaks dream teams apart.
- It is essential to recognize the value employees bring to your company and assign them tasks that increase their chances of success and growth.
- All employees must have a clear understanding of their function and what they contribute to the team.
- Managers have a duty to their team to cultivate and emphasize their strengths.
- It is crucial to honor your commitments to your colleagues and direct reports.
- Finally, and most importantly, that collaboration within a team of variable skills yields the best possible results—teamwork makes the dream work.
6 Components of a Great Team
To have a successful business, the components of teamwork that you need to implement are straightforward. The key is to be consistent and firm. Here is a laundry list that, if fully implemented, will become the foundation upon which to build a synergetic team:
- Your team must have a clear vision. It is imperative for everyone on the team to be rowing in the same direction. Everyone must come together to fulfill a common purpose that is in line with each individual’s goals.
- Each team member must have clear responsibilities. The easiest way to make sure that everyone feels important and valuable to the team is by providing structure. As mentioned previously, you do not want to have redundancies. But if your team members don’t know what they are each responsible for, they may end up stepping on each other’s toes. They should know exactly how their role contributes to the team’s performance.
- Positive team culture. Culture is crucial in team-building, and respect is always at the forefront. Everyone needs to feel like they are contributing to the business’s overall success to remain engaged and motivated. Promoting a collaborative culture will allow members to open up and rely on each other. A little bit of positive reinforcement can go a very long way.
- Solid processes. Determining standards of communication, structured meetings, and documented procedures defining expectations, guidelines, and work styles will help everyone understand their responsibilities and how their results will be evaluated.
- Feedback systems. The best way to fix a problem is by addressing it head on as soon as it happens. Respectful, positive, and constructive criticism will allow everyone to address their shortcomings and improve their performance. Tools such as individual performance assessments, team progress reports, and celebrating the team’s successes are important. Because when teamwork makes the dream work, the team should be rewarded.
- External support. Teams need to know that they have the support they need when required. Management should set up their teams for success and be available to address concerns as they arise. Empowering teams to make decisions at their level is important, but also providing access to resources needed to act upon those decisions is crucial.
How to Keep a Dream Team Engaged
By now, you should be convinced that teamwork makes the dream work. But how do you keep that synergy going? Let’s look at a Pennsylvania-based design firm specializing in custom commercial interiors as an example. When Marcus began working with the brothers who owned and operated the business, he stated that one of their main issues was that the team had no structure. He explained to them that if the employees do not know who’s in charge or what their roles are, the company will float aimlessly like a rudderless ship. After an overhaul of the organization’s processes, Marcus helped give the company direction, creating a structured and well-oiled machine, taking a group of individuals who had been working independently of each other and building them into a team. If we fast forward five-plus years into the future, the team is more fired-up than ever, and the company’s revenues have nearly quadrupled in that time. But how do you keep your team pumped up year after year? Peter Economy from Inc. magazine listed “9 Super Effective Ways to Motivate Your Team” (2016). As you will see, many seem very basic, maybe even common sense, but sometimes it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference in business.
- Pay your people what they are worth— a well-paid employee is a loyal employee.
- Create a pleasant workplace for all.
- Offer opportunities for growth and self-development.
- Happy employees are productive employees—try to foster a happy environment.
- Positive reinforcement is more impactful than punishment.
- Empower your team, trust them to do the job they were hired to do, and do not micromanage.
When you bring together the skills, the positive energy, and the knowledge of a motivated team, you and your staff can accomplish anything you set your minds to. After all, teamwork makes the dream work.
- What makes your team work?
- How do you motivate your team?
Economy, P. (2016, March 18). 9 super effective ways to motivate your team. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/9-super-effective-ways-to-motivate-your-team.html
McDaniel, S. H., Salas, E., & Kazak, A. E. (Eds.). (2018). The Science of Teamwork. American Psychologist, 73(4).
Murphy, J. J. (2016). Pulling together: 10 rules for high performance teamwork. Simple Truths, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. ISBN-10: 1608106411; ISBN-13: 978-1608106417
Waite, M. (2012). Synergy. In Paperback Oxford English Dictionary. Essay, Oxford University Press. ISBN-10: 0199640947; ISBN-13: 978-0199640942