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Four successful teamwork strategies for managers

Managers play a major role in any organisation – accountable for supporting others to achieve strategic objectives. 

But managers’ professional development is often centred on developing essential skills such as leadership and speaking. The importance of teamwork skills to achieve goals and objectives while nurturing your team is another fundamental building block for managerial professional development. 

To foster efficient teams that learn and grow from their mistakes, managers should follow these four strategies, which we’ll expand on in this blog: 

We’ll also share insights gained from our team’s experience of working with a wide range of businesses, including suggestions and tactics for any managers and leaders looking to develop these areas.

Four ways to bring teamwork into your leadership 

Reflecting on progress and suggesting improvements

When thinking about progress in any context or project there are multiple different dimensions that we should consider:

Team morale and motivation

As we know, motivation is the drive, commitment and energy that a team has to achieve different goals. This can fluctuate depending on the likelihood of success and the rewards achieved. 

However, more deeply psychological than this, motivation can also fluctuate according to whether the team feel:

  1. Known as individuals and working on a goal that excites them
  2. That they have the resources, tools and training for success
  3. Their successes are recognised and they are supported through challenges
  4. They have a sense of shared endeavour

As a manager, it’s important to ensure we continue the motivation of other members in our teams to help project progression.

Operational and impact effectiveness 

Sometimes, as we implement a plan, we encounter operational challenges such as securing the wrong resources. Other times it might be a challenge around the impact we are having and the project might not be leading to the outcomes we initially wanted.

Effective managers, recognise these challenges and adapt plans accordingly. Reviewing progress regularly against milestones will help you spot these challenges early and make amendments.

It’s important to remember that some team members have particular insights into different areas they are working on directly, and their expertise here can be drawn upon to make those necessary improvements.

Skills Builder Employer Insight

As a manager, it's always important to regularly review areas such as team structure and processes to ensure that everything is progressing in the most effective way. We see that sometimes structures may need to be changed or adapted in order to allow all team members to get involved in the project and draw on their strengths. It’s ok to trial new approaches and ways of working.

Evaluating successes and failures and sharing lessons

There are always many unknowns when planning any task or project. Unexpected events may knock progress off course and sometimes even low-probability risks can take place. Even with clear milestones and targets in place, we still need to take learning and insight from events that happen along the way. The most effective leaders use these to inform future planning and actions.

Involving team members in reviewing these successes and failures is a great way to draw out lessons and move the team forward. However, in order to do so, there needs to be a safe space built for that reflection. Managers who do this effectively use positive tones, dedicated time, celebrate successes and are open to learning lessons. 

Carefully considered questions will be key here and you might think about asking some about motivation, operational effectiveness, impact effectiveness or unanticipated effects. 

Questions to assess your team’s motivation and effectiveness:

  • Were individuals excited by the goal and tasks that they were given?
  • Were they equipped with the resources, tools and training for success?
  • Were we responsive to changes and challenges along the way?
  • Was there a clear case for the impact we expected, and a rationale for why that should have been achieved?
  • Were there any unanticipated additional effects and could we have spotted them sooner?

Skills Builder Employer Insight

Monthly meetings provide an ideal opportunity to do this reflection on a regular basis across project timelines. Coming together at the year end is another great opportunity to make positive changes going forward.

Dedicated meetings with a particular focus allows for thorough discussion of that topic and provides leaders the perfect chance to draw on the expertise of team members. Individuals can share successes and approaches they have tried as well as bring up areas they have found more challenging. These challenges can be discussed as a team to identify what isn’t working and how to proceed.

Evaluating others’ strengths and weaknesses, and supporting them accordingly

Though reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of our team is crucial for us as leaders, it’s also something that the whole team can contribute towards.

We can think about four main areas – noting that  the design of the project and tasks will dictate which of these attributes will be more or less important:

  • Knowledge and understanding: the expertise and experiences that individuals have
  • Relationships: the people they know and how positive and trusting those relationships are
  • Character strengths: the traits that people have and the choices they make
  • Skills: the things that individuals can do, they might be basic skills, essential skills or technical skills.

Recognising these attributes is something that will take time and is not something that should be assumed. 

However, interactions of our team members, observations of how they complete tasks, feedback from others and qualifications or certificates can all help us understand the attributes of our team and think about how we can provide support.

Once we understand the strengths and weaknesses of our team, we can then support and develop those weaker areas. 

For example, if a team member doesn’t have the skills, experience or knowledge to complete a given task they could be linked with a coach or mentor, or the tasks could be re-assigned.

It’s important to note that for the above approaches to be successful we need to ensure we have the same view about their attributes as the individual does.

Skills Builder Employer Insight

Review processes or performance management cycles can be the perfect place to have these conversations and ensure both managers and their direct reports are on the same page. 

A great way of doing this is to encourage those you manage to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, whilst also doing the same for them yourself. 

Then during these review discussions, have a coaching-style conversation to find out what they’ve written down and lead them towards recognising the ones you’ve also noted - although often there is an overlap. 

It’s important to celebrate successes and strengths, and use these to assign new projects or responsibilities. For any weaknesses, it’s an opportunity to create a plan to tackle them.

Another opportunity can also arise when new members join the group as project tasks can be reviewed and aligned to the new strengths that have been identified and brought into the team.

Bringing in external expertise and relationships

External relationships can benefit teams in a number of different ways as it can enable the sharing of information and learning, it can develop a supplier and customer relationship or it could enable partnership working.

Depending on the challenges that your team is facing, you can mobilise these relationships in different ways to build capacity.

  • Making introductions: new customers and clients will come through introductions, so mobilising your network can help to find the people you need
  • Sharing experience and expertise: this may come through an advisory board to provide advice to your teams but could also be used to get particular insights into aspects of a project
  • Coaching and team development: some individuals might be willing to act as a coach to other members of your team, giving them a chance to think through problems and development areas
  • Joint working: partnering with others can help bring in resources and attributes which are needed to complete a task

As well as drawing on these relationships, they also need to be nurtured. Team members need to understand and make sure that their actions help to further the relationship through mutual respect, trust, shared goals and a commitment to working together. This is where managers can offer guidance and support. 

Skills Builder Employer Insight

Gaps in a team’s knowledge or expertise can come from new ways of working or new project areas. This is something that leaders can recognise and act upon, using that external expertise. 

For example, as a partnership we are moving to look at apprenticeships and apprentices more over the next couple of years and partnering with organisations focused on that area is key for building our internal knowledge. These are great opportunities to upskill team members and build the capability of the team.

The final word

When drawing on these higher levels of teamwork skills to improve the team, using a coaching strategy as a manager will help your direct reports identify those areas and be more motivated to develop them and it’s always important to really celebrate those successes.

Ensure you involve the wider team in reflections and discussions around change as it is the best way to get buy-in for future projects and work and is a great chance to learn from their experiences.

If you would like to develop this skill further then Skills Builder Launchpad is an ideal place to start, completing modules and activities built around the steps and skills of the Universal Framework.

Would your learners enjoy building skills on a challenge day?

Take your learners on a journey of essential skills development through practical and engaging teaching like challenge days. Explore the possibilities on the funded Global Accelerator programme for educators worldwide – apply now.