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From good to great

4 ways to build a cohesive team

create a cohesive teamWhen you’re home from work with the flu, you’re probably focusing on two things – when is it going to end and how much work is piling up while you’re away.

All of us have felt the former, but if you have a good team at the offi ce, you won’t have the latter nagging at the back of your mind. In fact, a cohesive workplace team can reduce a lot of common day-to-day stress, while keeping everyone on track to meet deliverables and deadlines.

Some key practices can turn a good team into a great one, says Marina Butler, president of Employment Professionals Canada (EPC), a human resources and career agency based in Fort Erie, Ontario. Butler shares four tips:

1. Consider how a new employee will fit within your team

“Look for a degree of humbleness and genuineness to truly develop someone into a team player”

—Marina Butler, president, Employment Professionals Canada

“Hire based on personal characteristics that mesh well within the structure of your organization,” says Butler, adding that people who reason along similar lines and who share critical thinking skills make for a good mix.

“Look for a degree of humbleness and genuineness to truly develop someone into a team player.”

2. Play to their skill set, but cross-train them too

Capitalize on each person’s strengths Butler says. At the same time, cross-train your people to ensure that your operations will continue to run as smoothly as possible if complications crop up. “If something is lagging behind, you want people to work together. If you’ve chosen well, and there’s no ego about who accomplishes what, you’ll  and tasks are still getting completed. Then, when they accomplish things together, they celebrate together.”

3. Support a warm and open environment of trust

Employees need to know that their words hold weight and that the team as a whole is prepared to build on each individual’s ideas. That calls for trust, Butler says.

“As an exercise, sometimes we’ll take a group into a closed room and turn off the light. [We’ll give them a] piece of equipment to put together, like a tent. Because the lights are off, they have to  figure out what it is first.” That builds trust, she says, but it’s also interesting to see who takes on what role – who’s the leader, who’s keeping track of the parts, who’s motivating the group and so on. “We’ve often found that these roles are mirrored in the workplace,” she says.

4. Communicate — and mediate or negotiate

In any job, pressure can get heavy at peak times when deadlines loom. Tensions rise and conflict can occur but that doesn’t mean that the integrity of the team need be lost.

“First you have to identify the root of the problem,” Butler says. “Then bring in those individuals who are part of the conflict. Without open communication and the ability to mediate or negotiate, you can’t resolve that problem. You have to make sure that you’ve done a good job engaging them on the issues without sacrificing their integrity. Otherwise you risk making a bad situation worse.”

The right task, an environment of honesty and good rapport with co-workers makes even the toughest job so much easier. Build that environment today and the next time you’re home sick, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is whether you have enough chicken soup. ◊