For many, accomplishing tasks with a team feels like a daunting proposition.
There are a lot of competing ideas, personalities, and strengths that come along with each individual on the team -- and if you’re not in the right frame of mind, that can feel like a recipe for disaster. But each of those things can actually end up being the secret sauce that makes the project truly amazing in the end.
Even though working with other people usually requires more planning and more patience than working alone, it also means you can accomplish a lot more.
Adding more people into the mix doesn’t have to mean a work environment becomes more chaotic or disorganized. The opposite can actually be true! All it takes is a common goal that is understood by everyone, and the right systems in place to help everybody accomplish what they need to.
In the end, remember you’re all there for a reason and while it may be stressful at times, there’s often a simple solution to getting back on track and keeping your teamwork organized. Developing a simple system for working with a team can help reduce your stress and help everybody achieve so much more. Here are 6 steps to follow next time you need to work as part of a team, to help everybody achieve more and feel more cohesive as a group.
1. Develop an outline
First things first. Make a plan.
Before the teamwork begins, take a minute to outline the project and goals the group is setting out to accomplish. A successful outline should read like a roadmap for the entire endeavor. When you hit a bump in the road, you should be able to reference the outline to keep you on track. Whenever you or somebody on the team has a question about what stage the project is at or what’s next, this working document should be able to answer that question.
Start with overlying goals and the steps that will get you there. What resources will be required? Write down each role that is needed to get you there. This presents a clear idea for how the team will work on the project in the most effective way.
Next, consider problems the team may run into along the way. If you can plan for hiccups in advance, it makes the entire project run more smoothly.
Include deadlines in this outline, as many as necessary to help reach benchmarks along the way. Because it’s nearly impossible to know what might pop up and hinder progress, be prepared to revise the outline, but when you do, make sure it’s an edit that everyone on the team can see and understand. Nothing will snowball a project into mayhem faster than bad communication on changed plans.
2. Assign clear action items
Good teamwork means everybody has a job that’s essential to reaching the common goal. While some of those jobs may be weighted differently than others, it’s important to meet each of those jobs with a sense of organization and directness.
An easy way to jump start that organization is with individual to-do lists, made even easier with the For Me/For You notepad. It makes it easy to integrate ideas, tasks, and goals into the project-planning process while keeping it all fairly simple. What are your duties versus the team or a partner?
This notepad makes it particularly easy on team leaders, who are constantly needing to assign tasks or delegate responsibilities to the rest of the team. It's a great way to show them what you are working on, so that they can see how their work contributes to the bigger picture goals.
Plus, there's even a handy reward system on the bottom of the page to add a little extra motivation to the process.
3. Be open to new ideas
The greatest benefits of teamwork is also the greatest challenge: the array of experiences that are brought to the table by each team member.
Make a decision to see that as a strength. The best way to get through teamwork is to be organized but allow for flexibility, knowing that with different ideas and personalities there will undoubtedly be a lot of different viewpoints, work ethics, and approaches to accomplishing tasks.
Let a team project be a reminder that there isn’t just one way to do things, and that being open to a new idea or process can help you hone your own skills. Being open will require good listening and problem solving skills, so consider working in a brainstorming session or two with the team to begin to establish rapport and trust among the team, so everybody can feel comfortable with each other.
Keeping organized with a team and allowing for flexibility isn’t always going to be a walk in the park, though. You may recognize a red flag in a proposal or want to take a more conservative approach than the team is leaning towards. Defending your viewpoint isn’t always easy or comfortable. When you’re in that situation approach it from a place of solving a problem and communicating through it.
Say things like:
- “How will that impact our big goal?”
- “Maybe we should also consider…”
- “Have we done this before?”
4. Talk about how to work
It’s a good idea for teams to get to know each other when they’re working closely each day on a project. That doesn’t have to mean becoming best friends, but it’s helpful to find common ground and to understand how the people around you prefer to work.
Ask about each other’s experience and what parts of their job they like best and are good at. That will help everybody else find their place in the team and naturally define roles that work for everybody. The rest of the work will come more easily when you everybody knows how to work with each other.
Organization will follow naturally as people find their place within the group and within the project.
5. Make time for feedback
When you’ve organized your project and you’re well on your way to the deadline, make sure you make time for regular check-ins. Team meetings keep communication open, and a dialogue can be among the most important parts of teamwork. It ensures everybody is on the same page, snags can be identified early and progress reports become a regular part of the process.
Making time for feedback can also increase efficiency as the project progresses. Consider asking the team these questions:
- Is the goal still the same?
- What tasks have we achieved so far?
- What would you have done differently so far?
- What new ideas do you have?
6. Keep a calendar
Preferably, a calendar that everybody has access to and can clearly see deadlines and other important dates related to the project. Identify meetings, check-ins, and soft deadlines, like benchmark goals, to help keep everybody organized.
A teamwork calendar should be reviewed often, whether it changes or not, to make sure the timeline is useful and realistic. A calendar, at its most useful, will keep individuals on task, helping the entire team reach its goal.
The calendar should be be more specific than the outline of the project and include more details. For example, if a bevy of interviews are required for the project, write down more details than simply “interview.” Include the Who/What/When/Where to increase efficiency. Nobody will have to dig for details and know exactly where they should be, with whom, at what location and when.