The trouble with teamwork: Ten tips to make sure you and your colleagues work in sync

Mandy Flint and Elisabet Vinberg Hearn
Olympics Day 15 - Athletics
Knowledge is not power, unless it is shared (Source: Getty)

On average, we spend 37 hours a week at work, which means that most of us spend more time with our colleagues than with our family and friends. And if things aren’t amicable with the people we work with, or our teams don’t function efficiently, those 37 hours are going to be painful indeed.

We have identified 10 common problems which teams often encounter. So be proactive. Whichever of these you face, address them to ensure your team is as successful as it can be.

Lack of trust

Trust is crucial to teamwork, and it is hard to trust someone you don’t know. Team members must spend time together and get to know each other if there is to be a sense of cohesion.

Read more: The secret to building consensus around a bold new strategy

Conflict and tension

Conflict, a difference of opinion, can be healthy, and if carefully managed, can trigger useful debates.

Different opinions are no bad thing. It’s how we handle them that makes a difference. We can look for the creative power in the different views and use it to find better solutions.

Not sharing information

Knowledge is not power, until it is shared. Effective teams share regularly and generously for the benefit of everyone. This allows the whole team’s capabilities to grow and gives the team more power.

Low employee engagement

Less than 20 per cent of people are fully engaged at work. This is a massive waste of resources, and of employees’ time. The key to engagement is keeping staff involved. When involved, it is impossible to stay detached.

Read more: Six ways to transform your team's performance

Lack of transparency

Transparency is becoming the expected norm in business. The same goes for teams; they want to see what other teams do, and managers should provide them with the opportunity.

Lack of long-term thinking

Long-term success requires long-term thinking. Businesses have to look beyond the urgent, take a holistic view, and see how all the parts fit together.

In teams it’s about considering the impact of actions and behaviours – on each other, customers and financial results.

Negative perceptions

Every team has a brand and reputation. A large part of that is driven by how well the team delivers on expectations and promises. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their role in creating the perception of the team. This includes both what is delivered and how.

Not managing change well

Change is inevitable. All organisations go through change continuously. But it slows people down and creates uncertainty.

Be proactive about how the change is handled; talk about it in a constructive way, get clarifications, find solutions to make the change work.

Silo working

Silo working is a reality for many teams. Working together in earnest is making the most of the fact that you are a team.

Honour your time and efforts by seeing yourself as a full time member of the team, not just an individual contributor. Look out for each other and help each other succeed.

Different directions

Unless your team is all going in the same direction, you are effectively pulling the potential of the team apart. To walk in the same direction, spend time clarifying what you are contributing to (vision) and why (purpose).

Keep in mind that visions need to be compelling, and purposes meaningful.

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