As summer holidays draw to a close, children begin preparing for a new school year. For many, it brings new things to learn, a new teacher, new classmates, and new opportunities. But for others, these changes create stress and anxiety that could limit their chance to do well.
The experiences and hesitations that come with a new school year are strikingly similar to changes that occur in workplace teams. From bringing new members on board to overcoming new challenges, building a strong team takes trust, communication, and dedication. And these things are often first experienced in the school classroom.
Granted, your own school days may be far behind, but as a team leader, you never lose your student mentality. While children are preparing to return to school, consider these five principles that can help you build a better team:
Establish clear expectations, goals, and objectives.
On the first day of school, teachers across the country will be introducing themselves and explaining the rules of the classroom. Students learn from Day 1 that anything from late homework to red ink isn’t acceptable, as well as get a preview of the activities they can expect later in the year.
Doing the same for your team isn’t just a good idea, it’s an absolute necessity to give them focus and direction. Setting expectations for your team at the onset of your project places accountability on them and lets them realize the importance of their performance. Otherwise, you run the risk of leaving team members to act on their own volition rather than that of the company.
In addition, sharing your ultimate goals with your team gives them something tangible to work towards. Help them understand how their contributions fit into the end goal.
Get to know each other.
Unless each person on your team has worked with every other person on your team before, you will need to spend some time helping your team get to know each other.
Teachers often do ice breakers on the first day of class to help students learn names and interesting things about their classmates. One popular yet simple suggestion is to go around the room and have everyone say their name and two other facts about themselves, such as where they’re from or their favorite color. Another common idea is Two Truths and a Lie, where each person says two facts and one lie about themselves, and others have to guess which one isn’t true.
Knowing about the people you’re working with can help to establish the trust and communications skills necessary to take your project to the finish line.
Listen with an open mind.
As early as pre-school, students learn that no two people are alike, which is what makes each person special. This mantra carries over into the workplace, which means your team members are likely to have ideas and opinions that differ. Consider these times as opportunities to learn.
Listening with an open mind, especially when others’ thoughts do not align with your own, fosters creativity and innovation. By delaying response and asking others to share before passing judgment, you position your team to generate unique ideas and new solutions that may otherwise have never evolved.
Be supportive of others.
Head to any school sporting event and you’ll see players giving high fives for points or offering words of encouragement after a strike out. These teams know that their chance of success is only as strong as its weakest player, which is why they take initiative to help that player in any way possible.
Your project team is very much like a sports team in this sense. You all work toward a common goal. You each play to your own strengths to get there. And you should encourage each other when performance starts to sink.
Remaining positive, especially when faced with project failure or missed goals, can keep the morale high, restore hope, and push forward. Your project needs everyone to give it their best effort if you want it to succeed.
Share your own thoughts.
When you create a team culture that listens with an open mind, you encourage to share their own thoughts without fear of rejection or embarrassment. But this can often be easier said than done.
Teachers often find themselves struggling to overcome the sea of blank stares and slight nods. Getting engagement from your team can prove equally challenging if you haven’t established the first four principles.
Both employees and students will find it easier to be forthcoming when they
- Understand the importance of talking about their ideas
- Know the people with who they are sharing information
- Feel that others will listen receptively, and
- When others will be supportive of their ideas, even when they don’t agree.
The best leaders are the ones who never stop learning. By investing the time and resources needed to make your team the best it can be, you’re creating a team of future leaders that are capable of accomplishing any goal you set.