Cooperation is a tough dynamic to foster. You must pay careful attention to all the elements of effective teamwork, adjusting your approach as necessary to accommodate the personalities of the team members. But with thoughtful planning and organization, as well as the right kinds of motivation, you can make any team more effective.
Each team member must know what her teammates are doing, especially if the project is complex. Open lines of communication -- among peers and also with the supervisor -- allows the entire team to respond quickly to unforeseen events. For example, suppose a personal emergency causes one team member to miss an upcoming deadline. Rapid communication among the other members allows them to quickly pick up the slack.
Effective Interpersonal Relations
Even simple projects require effective interpersonal relations. For example, a team leader must be an effective manager, offering guidance and encouragement to under-performing team members and keeping tabs on everyone’s progress. The team members also must work together well, not competing for credit, but rather focusing on how to help, or at least not impede, their teammates. Also, team members must maintain functional relationships with the team leader, for example, by being open to criticism and following directions well.
If a team leader doesn't delegate tasks well, the team can't capitalize on the primary advantage of teamwork: differentiated skills. Abilities and experience vary among team members, so the project’s assignments should be based on who can best perform each task. The overall effect of smart task delegation is efficiency. If everyone does what he is best at, the team functions at its highest possible level.
Another key element of effective team management is setting clear and reasonable short- and long-term goals. For example, a team leader might break the main goal of a project into a chronological series of steps. Then she might group the steps into various stages, assigning a deadline for the end of each stage. The team then can be confident that steady progress toward its short-term goal means the long-term goal is closer, as well.
Motivation comes in many varieties. Not getting yelled at by your boss, for example, is a form of motivation -- but not a very effective one. The best kinds of motivation enhance job satisfaction and a sense of personal accomplishment. For example, motivating a team might involve offering individual team members rewards for work well done, as well as offering group awards for beating deadlines. The individual rewards motivate by ensuring hard-working team members get due credit, and group awards motivate by ensuring no one feels left out.
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