New managers or team leaders are always curious to know the secret ingredients that create team unity. But the secret is that there is no secret.
After working with teams for over 20 years, I have found that team unity is the result of two very important ingredients coming together:
- Unity is created when people care about their team’s goal.
- Unity is created when people care about their teammates.
That’s it—just two ingredients.
Now, some people on your team may care more for and appreciate the loyalty or skills of someone they have struggled through a past experience with than they do the particular goal your team has chosen. Or, someone on your team may be far more motivated by achieving a compelling goal than they are by wanting to please or impress the people around them on your team. But every team’s unity is based on the amount that each individual cares about these two things.
Teams that are dysfunctional and low performing often care very little for either of the two. Teams that achieve moderate success may care a good bit about one or the other. But truly high-performing teams care a great deal about both.
The job of a leader is to identify which of these two ingredients is missing or in shortest supply, and then become a catalyst for team development by providing opportunities for motivation, reflection or interaction that are needed.
“the coordinated efforts of a cohesive group who contribute diverse skills and resources to accomplish a compelling common goal.”
I still define Teamwork as “the coordinated efforts of a cohesive group who contribute diverse skills and resources to accomplish a compelling common goal.” However, successful teamwork does not happen on its own. Like any other skill, teamwork is developed over time and requires both focus and effort.
While most managers are far more comfortable focusing on numbers and metrics and statistics and other measurables, the truly successful ones soon realize that the paperwork part of their job is easy. Wisdom is realizing that the soft stuff is the hard stuff!
Successful managers commit to investing time in building relationships and creating connections with and among their staff—and team building is often a neglected area of opportunity for increasing team unity. Team building is NOT pointless play, or pointless play, or a disorganized leisure experience that provides no lasting improvement. Rather, team building is a process that uses engaging activities to provide actionable insights for improving group communication, morale, and leadership skills.
Does your team need to invest more time in creating or committing to a compelling common goal and seeing the benefits and rewards for accepting a role as part of that effort? Does your team need to invest more time in building relationships and rapport and establishing a sense of trust, encouragement, loyalty and support? Perhaps your team needs a good bit of both.
Whatever circumstances your group is currently experiencing, you can create the team unity and culture of cohesive commitment that you desire. And, no matter how strong and committed your team is now, be aware that everything deteriorates over time if neglected. Indeed, even the most impressive teams need time together to strengthen relationships and to be reminded of the goals and values that brought them together.
If your group needs to care more about a goal, then it is your job to clarify the goal and craft stories to emphasize why the goal is important and how it will benefit each team member. The more clearly you can see your destination, the more likely you are to reach it.
If your group needs to care more about each other, then it is your job to schedule opportunities for learning about team personality types and their personal backgrounds, strengths, and struggles.
The more you know about your teammates, the more you will care about them.
Yes, the ship will sail in the direction that the captain points it. But it will sail far faster and more smoothly through adversity if the group maintains high levels of awareness and appreciation for these two ingredients. The time you devote to helping create team unity will deliver a tremendous return on your investment.
If you are interested in learning more, you can visit my website for resources and information about team building for teachers, businesses, and athletic groups. You can also follow me on twitter. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.