Companies around the globe are struggling to improve team spirit and to create real synergy within teams. There might not be one formula for success, however I believe that one important factor to build a good team is mutual respect. Sounds fairly simple, but the devil is in the details: Respect is mostly about your perception of others, so the only way to show it sincerely is through your actions.
As a manager let people know what your are planning, long before your ideas get their final shape and definitely before you have made any decisions. Show your team members respect by inviting them into the process as equals. Of course this also means not merely allowing, but asking for input from them.
Giving people the opportunity to shape their own work, letting them take influence on what it is they are going to work on will go a long way towards making them feel part of the whole project and thus part of the team, because now it is not someone else’s task they are carrying out, it becomes “their baby” as well.
Giving people this kind of opportunity to change things with their contributions, will make them feel empowered and much more connected, because they are now an integral part of a process and not just the receiving end of decisions made ”behind closed doors”.
It Has to Be Genuine
It may sound simple, but making people part of the whole decision process is not as easy as it might seem. For one thing you as a manager have to genuinely want people to give their opinion on your plans, and listen to them or at least be open to discuss your ideas. Secondly, prodviding an opportunity to give feedback necessitates the will to do something with that feedback.
Do not forget that there are people who are perfectly fine with being told what to do. Some people are not outspoken and find it hard to state their opinion towards others. This does not necessarily exclude the possibility that they have an opinion, it just might require a bit more involvement on the part of the manager or colleagues to make them feel comfortable enough to participate in the discussion.
The Right Place
One way of making people more comfortable to speak out is providing the right environment. Rather than discussing such things in person in a weekly meeting it is probably easier for people to voice their opinion in a less personal environment.
This is exactly one of the purposes we at The Plant created Qortex for. Here by default all discussions are visible to all users in the organisation, so anyone can chime in on any conversation. In our case, some employees turned out to have expertise in fields we were not aware of. Letting them choose their own ”battles” helped to reveal hidden talents we otherwise might have never known of.
After completely switching our internal communication to Qortex (mostly abandoning email), some of our less outspoken employees turned out to provide valuable insights and opinions on a number of topics, people in remote offices became more “visible”, and the whole team – although distributed in three offices around the globe – grew much closer together.
Finally people can easily find out what else is going on in the company and what others are working on at any given time. People speak more with each other and value each other’s input creating something that is much more than just “on spec”.