Working on a daily basis with other people can bring out the best and the worst in us. Some days everything is smooth sailing—we love our team, we work well together, and we have a lot to show for it. Other days, there’s tension and disagreement and it feels like nothing gets accomplished. Making teamwork work every single day takes intentionality and a little know-how. Apathy doesn’t get anyone anywhere. You have to believe your team can be better, recognize that you have a problem, and make it a priority to find a resolution. You can’t just assume you’re a “bad” or incompatible team. There’s usually something that is to blame.

Rip the band-aid!

The key to making teamwork work is to ask yourself (and each other) why things are the way they are. Maybe the answer to that question is painful, but much like ripping off a band-aid, you have to just do it. You have to get to the bottom of it. Things like deadlines not being met, misunderstandings, etc. are all a result of something below the surface. Ask yourselves:

  • Are we regularly checking in with one another? Are we staying on the same page?
  • Do we keep each other accountable and use a system to keep track of tasks?
  • Who is responsible for what? Do they know that?
  • When does each task have to be done?
  • What percentage of our communication is via text, email, chat and what percentage is face-to-face? Can we do more face-to-face communication?
  • Are we being honest with one another?
  • Are we being helpful to one another?

Communication, communication, communication

Communicating regularly, clearly, and honestly is crucial in order to make your team work. Huffy emails and silent stares do not make the team work. Confront one another like adults. Deal with problems before they happen. Talk about past projects and how the process broke down. Determine what the problem was, not who the problem was. Be honest with one another in a patient, respectful way.

Lastly, you’ve probably heard the phrase “you take care of you.” And while you are certainly responsible for your work, very team member has to be willing to pick up the slack if need be. You can’t just blame someone for not doing their job if they have a legitimate reason (such as a family emergency or illness) for not doing what they said they would do. As soon as you know that someone is having trouble or is unable to complete their tasks, set in place plan B. Oftentimes this requires other teammates stepping in and doing more than what is asked of them. The more quick and painless those transitions are, the more successful the team will be.

So as a recap, in order for teamwork to work the way it is designed to, each person must:

  1. claim responsibility for a specific set of tasks and understand clearly what those are
  2. set deadlines and create a plan of action to meet them
  3. maintain a willingness to go above and beyond, if need be, in order for the team to succeed as a whole.