Teamwork Is A Skill in High Demand. Here’s How to Cultivate It as a Manager.

May 19, 2020

Teamwork Is A Skill in High Demand. Here’s How to Cultivate It as a Manager.

In this ever-changing world of work, it’s never been more important to bring people together towards a common goal. For many organizations, work environments are still shifting, but projects continue full steam ahead. And managers face the difficult task of bolstering teamwork amidst uncertainty.

It’s no wonder people have spent more time learning about teamwork than any other skill on LinkedIn Learning in the last week. 

Professionals are eager to build this skill, and companies value it: teamwork is mentioned as a desired skill in about 2 million current job postings on LinkedIn. Whether you’re preparing for your next interview or looking for inspiration on how to motivate and connect remote teams, now's the time to expand your approach to teamwork.

Start with one of last week's top trending courses, now free until the end of June: Psychological Safety: Clear Blocks to Innovation, Collaboration, and Risk-Taking with Amy Edmondson. According to Edmondson, leaders must create “psychological safety”—a safe space for people to speak up, make mistakes, and bring their full selves to work. 

To create a safe environment that activates teamwork during these difficult times, show up in these three ways.  

Learn more in the course “Psychological Safety: Clear Blocks to Innovation, Collaboration, and Risk-Taking.”

#1 Find—and communicate—the bigger purpose of the work being done on your team

It’s common for people to disengage when they don’t feel connected to their work or are physically apart from colleagues, like many of us are now. 

As a manager, your job is to help your team connect the dots between the tasks they’re doing on a daily basis and a larger purpose. First, you need to get clear on that purpose: Why does it matter that my team exists? How is everyone contributing something meaningful to the team, the company, society? 

Communicate it clearly and often. When people have something bigger than themselves to strive for, they often feel more energized, more connected, and in turn, more psychologically safe. 

It’s also important to remind your team that working towards this greater purpose—particularly now—won’t always be smooth sailing. There will be challenges and uncertainty. And that’s okay. 

“Emphasizing that complexity lets people know that you know it's okay to make mistakes, it's okay to have some things go wrong, it's okay to encounter problems,” says Edmondson.

When your team is comfortable with uncertainty and imperfection, it will embolden them to move quickly, speak up, share their ideas, and take risks. 

#2 Ask good questions and get team input 

A strong team is one where every single member feels safe to speak up. And the best way to get people to speak up is to ask good questions.

A good question has two elements. It’s focused on what matters and it’s sufficiently open-ended to invite your team’s voices into the conversation, like these: 

  • “What are we missing?” 

  • “What are you seeing out there?”’

  • “What other options might we consider?” 

  • "Who has a different point of view?”

  • "Do you have experiences with things like that?" 

When you ask these types of questions, you create space for people to share what they know. 

As a leader, it's not about tolerating voice and input—you need to welcome it, says Edmondson. 

Do this by bringing your team together and inviting them to share, think, dream, wonder, question. When you give people the space to slow down, you give them the chance to reflect on what’s working and what’s not, and take stock in a thoughtful way.

#3 Respond productively and constructively to mistakes

You’ve taken the steps to create a safe environment. Your teams are engaged and speaking up. Now you need to make sure you’re responding in a constructive way. 

“If the first time someone comes to you with bad news, you respond with anger or disappointment or disdain, that will have a dampening effect on the psychological safety,” says Edmondson. 

And the connection can break down from there. That person may think twice before they come back to you with bad news. 

It’s also important to give feedback in a way that doesn’t erode psychological safety. Edmondson explains how: 

  • Be explicit that feedback is an important part of the learning process—and like any learning process, you may not get it perfectly. 

  • Use “I” statements like “I observed” and “I noticed.” Then share the impact of that behavior or action. 

  • Acknowledge that the feedback you’re giving is incomplete; it’s a single perspective. Say “Here’s what I see and I know it’s not the whole story.” 

  • Finally, invite and insist on input. 

When you master the art of a productive feedback session, you’ll contribute to even greater trust and safety, and you’ll model mutual learning that will inspire healthy conversations throughout the team. 

Learn more about teamwork in these courses available to help you and your career, free through June 30.