Great teams don't just happen; they are created. If you're responsible for leading a team, no matter how large or small, you need to constantly and conscientiously focus on the elements that make a group of individuals more effective than the sum of their individual contributions. You may have hired each person for the skills and talents they possess, but individual contributions won't propel the team as a whole to succeed. As the leader, you need to understand what makes an effective team and propel yours to be the best it can be.
Focus on Building Mutual Trust
One thing most effective team leaders have in common is a deep belief in the importance of trust. Not only do they seek to gain the confidence of their employees but also to foster trust among all the members of the team. Your goal is for the team to function cohesively without your constant supervision, and that can only happen when all the members know the others have their backs at all times. A great way to build that kind of confidence and teamwork is through team-building exercises. For example, collectively tackling an escape room online is an ideal way to have fun while solving a problem together. Getting to know each other's thought processes and unique strengths leads to deeper and more productive relationships. Other examples of team-building exercises you might consider are off-site adventures like go-kart racing, bowling, or kickball. Any activity that allows people to let loose and have fun will go a long way toward building memories and a shared sense of belonging that will translate to work time activities as well.
Get To Know the Individuals
It might seem counterintuitive at first, but you need to focus on the individuals to build a great team. As a leader, you have to look at each person as unique and not just one of the gang. Take the time to get to know each team member by asking probing questions and listening attentively to the answers. Of course, you should keep the conversation on a professional level and avoid overly personal issues, but you can and should ask what they like about their job, what they wish could change, and their goals for the future. Your goal is to understand what drives each team member so that you can relate to them sincerely and respectfully. Additionally, avoid falling into the trap of thinking that everyone needs to be treated exactly the same. Your team consists of talented, intelligent adults. As long as they know you're operating from the best of intentions, they will not only accept but appreciate the small accommodations you make to support each member's unique needs.
Take a Good Look at Yourself
When evaluating your team's effectiveness and looking for ways to improve it, you might be tempted to focus solely on your employees' perceived weaknesses. But a better approach is to first take a long, honest look at yourself and your leadership skills. Effective leaders communicate clearly and authentically, keeping team members in the loop as much as possible. They solicit suggestions from team members and consider them seriously. They also reward great performance generously in public and correct errors compassionately in private. And finally, they model humility by accepting full responsibility for their own mistakes. Assessing your leadership style periodically is important, especially during times of crisis when outside factors like the coronavirus pandemic can derail you from your typical strategies. Being a great leader is not just assembling a team and then telling it what to do. You need to evolve and adapt as needed in response to changes in your team's environment.
Remember the Importance of Mental Health
Teams function best when their workplace is as stress-free as possible. Of course, you can't eliminate all work-related tension. There will be deadlines and stretch goals that have everyone on edge from time to time. But you can mitigate some of those negative effects by deliberating focusing on supporting your team's mental health.
How you approach stress reduction will be highly dependent on your individual team members and your company culture. Some teams thrive with a few minutes of guided meditation before meetings. Others might enjoy a mid-day stretching session or coupons for a relaxing massage. Perhaps the most impactful step you can take in supporting others' mental health is modeling your own self-care. Talk openly about your actions, such as going to therapy or taking a lunchtime walk each day. Leading a team is a big responsibility but also a wonderful opportunity to encourage greatness. By getting to know the unique strengths of all your team members, encouraging trust and collaboration among them, and demonstrating your own willingness to grow, you can foster a work environment that is not only healthy but highly productive.