7 secrets of high functioning teams

Chances are, you’ve seen teams that work incredibly well together and have probably experienced ones that don’t. Having a team that clicks can mean the difference between success or failure in a company. If you’ve ever experienced what it’s like to be part of a team that clicks, then you know how much it impacts your productivity, efficiency, work enjoyment, even your mental health. Here are seven secrets I’ve noticed in highly effective teams: 

  1. Trust. 

Teams built on trust are essential for a work environment to run smoothly. If you’ve ever experienced a coworker who says things behind your back, or simply doesn’t do what they say they are going to, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When you’re around someone who you don’t feel like you can trust, you’re not going to be able to let your guard down around that person. On high functioning teams, everyone understands the importance of a positive work culture. When you’re surrounded by people you trust, it’s easier to feel comfortable being yourself. New ideas will flow from there. 

  1. Empathy. 

I never knew empathy in the workplace was so important until I joined a very unique content marketing team, under the leadership John Brandon, a Forbes Senior Contributor. From day one, my boss set the tone with a meeting to lay out the expectations for the year and the kind of culture that the team should work towards creating. Right away, I knew this was a unique team and one that wouldn’t scold people for making mistakes. Without having to fear mistakes from learning, and seeing mistakes as growth opportunities, it was much easier to be more productive (because no one had to worry about being perfect). 

  1. Encouragement. 

Encouragement is often overlooked or seen as weak, but it is one of the building blocks when you’re helping someone learn a new skill. Studies show that the more often we think a thought, our brain pathway is rewired to make it easier to rethink your thought. For example, when someone on your team says something encouraging, the thought that might cross your mind is oh cool, I’ll do that similarly next time. By nature of your response, encouragement is making it easier for you to learn how to do something, making it more likely you’ll put the same amount of effort or apply the same skill in the next similar task. The reason encouragement works so much better than criticism is because of the neuro pathways that are created as a response. The more you have to think about what not to do the harder it becomes not to do xyz, because you’re already spending brain energy focused on that area. Neurologically, you’re creating pathways that increase the likelihood you’ll make the same mistake. 

  1. Constructive feedback. 

Constructive feedback is different from criticism in one key area, your tone. You can say the same thing to someone in an encouraging way by simply changing the way you say it slightly and paying attention to your tone of voice. Criticism, especially in an email, has a high potential for coming across as demeaning, even if you don’t mean for it to. If you can, always give constructive feedback in person or over a video chat, so your tone of voice comes across clearly in a positive way. Trust me, you’ll make your teammates so much happier if you do. After giving feedback, don’t dwell on the changes. Instead, try to end the conversation with something positive and you’ll be creating the kind of environment that makes it easy to address problems or share new strategies in the future. 

  1. Commitment to common goals. 

There’s nothing that will unite a team as strongly as sharing a united mission. Whether it’s to make money, save the planet, or prevent war, having a shared vision and being honest about what your goals are will help keep your team motivated and on track. At the end of the day, your team should never have to question why they do what they do, or what your intentions are with a specific project. Creating a common goal helps your team know if they should share information that could benefit everyone in the long run. You can ask people to keep their eye out for xyz, or encourage them to start something new that helps you reach your goals faster, which leads to the next point. 

  1. Taking initiative. 

Effective teams make it easy for you to share ideas, but a highly effective team takes initiative. Imagine how much you could get done in a day if you didn’t have to motivate the people around you? Many bosses spend most of their time trying to get their team members to do certain tasks. When you’re part of a team that’s built on trust, shows empathy, and encourages each other, you are more likely to be surrounded by people who will naturally take initiative, because at the end of the day, they want to be part of the team. 

  1. Diverse skill sets. 

Last but definitely not least, diverse skill sets and ways of thinking strengthens your team and helps prevent blind spots. If everyone you have around you always agrees with you, there’s no checkpoint for you to fall back on and therefore no one to check your work. People coming from a wide variety of backgrounds created more complete and dynamic business ideas. When the team has a strong cultural foundation built on trust, people with diverse skill sets can effectively work together. 

Hopefully these seven characteristics are already part of your work team. If there’s an area your team lacks, check out this next piece for simple ways to implement these characteristics and start building the culture of a highly effective team.

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