Teamwork, as they say, makes the dream work. Without teamwork, your business is headed for trouble. But too often, “teamwork” is bandied about as a buzzword for managers. Developing real teamwork requires synergy, and synergy must be built, not commanded. Whether you are running a family business, a private business or a corporation, there are common tactics you must deploy to create synergy—and true teamwork—over time. But first, let’s define “synergy.” In a business sense, synergy can be summed up as “the interaction of multiple elements to produce an effect different from or greater than the sum of individuals’ efforts.” When synergy is properly built, the sum of the team parts will offer greater performance than any one individual—including you, the leader of the organization. And when teams are working with synergy, team performance improves, as does collective pride in the team.
A Recipe for Team Synergy
Don’t go it alone. Collaborate with your team to find solutions or you’ll lose the advantage of diversity of knowledge and perspective that results from group interactions. If you don’t involve your team, you inadvertently encourage passivity from your team members. Collaboration is important for any team—be it in sports, the classroom or in a business setting. When team members learn to lean on each other as much as they take the lead, synergy begins to form. In my experience, there are at least five “people factors” that help create synergistic teams—trust, respect, communication, passion, and commitment. These five factors could be read as core values for a company. If your team trusts and respects each other, they’ll likely communicate with each other. And when a team communicates well, it generally succeeds, which leads to the final two factors—passion and commitment. When your team sees the results of their collective efforts, they will be incentivized to continue to succeed. That’s when you’re really cooking with gas.
How to Build Synergy and True Teamwork
How do you build a team that operates in this manner? It’s starts with leadership. As a leader, you must foster an atmosphere that promotes trust, respect, and communication. Take the example of NFL coach Nick Sirianni of the Philadelphia Eagles. Sirianni, a first-time head coach, was tasked with getting the team back into contention after a few years of mediocrity. His first order of business wasn’t installing a new playbook—it was instilling a new culture. On day one of his tenure, he preached his core values— connecting, competition, accountability, intelligence, and fundamentals. However, “connecting” always came first—and there’s a reason for that. “When you know somebody – when you really know somebody and you connect with someone – you’re going to go a little bit harder for them,” Sirianni said in an interview early in his tenure. “There’s something extra that you’ll give when you care for somebody. When you know what they’ve gone through or sacrificed to get where they are now. When you understand who they are as a person and as more than just a football player,” he said.
While not everything is this quote applies to business, the heart of it does. As a business leader, creating an environment where teamwork is encouraged—be it through creating core values, setting up team activities away from work or fostering a more collaborative environment—is essential to driving team synergy and teamwork. But’s it’s only the start. Leaders must put an organizational structure in place that both promotes and harnesses team synergy. A variety of researchers and practitioners have identified six organizational structure factors that lead to a great team workplace:
Clear Objectives: When your team knows its goals, they will be much easier to achieve. Setting clear objectives will help your team get on the same page, and work together to achieve them.
Performance Metrics: Your team needs a measuring stick to track their progress and performance so that they can make necessary adjustments along the way. Setting up clear performance metrics will help your team say on track.
Ongoing Training: One of Coach Nick Sirianni’s goals for his team is to “get 1% better every day.” Learning is a lifelong experience, not something you do once and move on. Set up regular trainings to help your team stay sharp.
Grant Decision-Making Authority: Your team will have a much better chance at meetings its goals if they are empowered to make decisions. If every decision gets stuck in the C-suite, your team will not be successful, and could eventually become resentful.
Reward the Team—Not the Individual: Team-based rewards and evaluations can be very powerful—they upend the normal incentive structure from “me” to “us.”
A Culture of Communication: If you want to develop true teamwork, you must foster an open environment of communication that welcomes different perspectives and ideas. If people are afraid to speak out, the best ideas may never see the light of day.
Team synergy is incredibly powerful. The most successful businesses have it. It’s not hard to achieve, but it won’t happen overnight. If you invest the time and effort into creating an atmosphere where teamwork reigns, the results will speak for themselves.