Say you’re a creative thinker who takes the “big picture” approach to a project strategy. Your colleague, on the other hand, is better at crunching numbers and focusing on the smaller, day-to-day details.
If you’re given the opportunity to use your individual strengths over the course of a project, this could be a winning combination. But what happens if suddenly you or your colleague stops communicating or being as productive as before, leaving the other to pick up the slack? Morale starts to break down and the quality of work starts to suffer.
Effective teamwork is often easier said than done—especially when the team is made up of a diverse group of people with different professional backgrounds and experiences. But with the right tools and strategies, you can help your team members support each other and bring out the best in each of them.
So, how do you promote teamwork among your colleagues? Before we explain the key characteristics of great teams and ways to achieve them, let’s remind ourselves of the importance of teamwork.
Why is effective teamwork important?
Let’s be honest—working with a group of people isn’t always easy. When there’s no common goal or sense of trust between team members, it can feel like you’re out of sync—and your motivation to get work done in a timely and efficient manner might suffer.
Teams that work well together, on the other hand, not only find a rhythm in completing tasks and hitting deadlines—they foster a sense of loyalty and belonging. In turn, individual members of the team feel valued and engaged in their work.
Additionally, effective teamwork:
- Builds strong employee relationships
- Presents more learning and development opportunities
- Boosts efficiency, productivity, and creativity
- Increases accountability, team morale, and motivation to see projects succeed
- Introduces new approaches and perspectives to projects and feedback
- Promotes synergy—everyone comes together to achieve team goals
The best teams don’t just happen, and they don't fall into place overnight. Achieving this takes time, patience, and willingness from every team member at every level. Let’s look at what effective teamwork in the workplace involves in more detail.
5 key characteristics of effective teams
There are a number of common traits in workplace environments that create and support dynamic, strong, and productive teams. Here are five important components of effective teamwork.
1. Clearly defined responsibilities and goals
Every role in the team—including any assigned “leaders”, if these are necessary—needs to be clearly defined and reflective of each member’s strengths. Your team will likely have a balance of skills that should be embraced when delegating tasks and responsibilities.
Think about your group projects at school or college—how often did one person carry the load for the rest of the team? By ensuring everyone understands their contribution to the team and the expected workload, you can avoid this kind of imbalance. The team structure should encourage a positive dynamic, not resentment or destructive behavior.
When each member of the team feels comfortable with their personal goals and responsibilities—as well as what the team is collectively working towards—they are more likely to care about the team’s success and feel energized to produce their best work.
To facilitate this, use collaborative tools to assign tasks and create a team to-do list with due dates so everyone stays on track.
2. Collaboration and support
Effective teamwork isn’t just about the collective effort to complete tasks and achieve the outcomes of a project or process. It also involves seeking help from colleagues when issues or obstacles arise, and in turn providing help and support when it is needed.
Collaborative team behavior encourages innovation through the willing exchange of resources, expertise, and ideas. Project management, decision-making, and problem-solving processes become much more productive when team members—not just leaders or management—can use their different points of view and expertise to help find solutions.
Dropbox helps you bring your files, tools, and team members together in one convenient workspace. Share everything from brainstorming templates to videos, access your important files, and communicate through connected tools like Slack and Zoom—all without leaving Dropbox.
3. Honest and open communication
Effective communication equals effective teamwork. This entails active listening, and not being afraid to question decisions that impact your team. It also means you and your team members feel comfortable giving and receiving constructive criticism when necessary.
Every member of the team should feel like their input matters and is welcomed by the wider group. If somebody in a junior position wants to suggest experimenting with a different approach to a project, their more senior colleagues should listen and provide support in bringing those ideas to life if possible.
Tools like Slack and Zoom enable you to connect with your team in real-time. But sometimes visual elements, like screen recordings and video messages, help you get your point across in a more meaningful way.
That’s where tools like Dropbox Capture come in. Create screen recordings, GIFs, and screenshots, and easily add voiceovers and markups—so you can clearly say what you mean without scheduling anything.
4. Conflict resolution
There’s an important deadline coming up, and your team is behind schedule. Tensions are understandably high. In this scenario, what distinguishes a strong team from a weak team is how this tension is handled.
It’s natural to disagree with other people in your team from time to time. But this starts to break teamwork down when conflicts arise and there are no methods in place to resolve them. This is particularly true for remote teams—it can be harder to repair fractures in a distributed team as you can’t rely on the same nonverbal and contextual insights as in a face-to-face work environment.
If infighting and passive-aggressiveness start to cause issues in a team, it’s important to identify and confront the issue.
Effective teams understand the importance of hearing out different opinions, searching for a solution that works for the whole team and not just specific individuals, and finding a compromise if necessary. Make sure you keep a record of your meeting minutes and collaborate on a plan of action that everyone on the team can refer to when they need it.
5. Trust and respect
When the other traits in this list are well-established, team members get along well!
Trust and respect aren’t just about believing in the process and the work being produced, but also being able to overcome problems in the face of tension.
Besides the work itself, this may manifest itself as trusting your colleagues to catch up on meetings and training materials asynchronously when they have the time. Tools like Dropbox Capture help you share time-saving recordings that give your team back the time it would have taken to sit in a lengthy meeting.
How to achieve—and maintain—good teamwork habits
Achieving good teamwork habits won’t be an overnight change—it will take some time to figure out what methods and tools work best for your team on a personal and professional level.
High-performing teams will:
- Brainstorm ideas to reach a shared solution
- Set SMART goals and objectives for every project
- Appoint a team leader when necessary to delegate tasks and mediate on behalf of the group
Maintaining good teamwork habits requires input from every team member, not just certain individuals. There’s no one-size-fits-all thing solution that you can set up once and then leave alone—like the work itself, the effectiveness of your teamwork methods should be tracked and reviewed so you can iron out any issues before they become disruptive.
To maintain an effective team environment:
- Trust the process, and respect the time and effort shown by the entire team during collaborative work
- Check-in with your colleagues regularly but don’t waste time with pointless team meetings—use asynchronous communication methods such as video messages and screen capture tutorials to streamline workflows
- Recognize individual and collective accomplishments, and use these as learning opportunities to expand your skill sets
- Be open and transparent with your colleagues about things you are finding challenging or that are preventing you from being productive
- Streamline the communication process and keep group comms such as feedback in one place
- Get to know your team members as individuals—outside of work!
It’s also important to ensure your team is equipped with the best technology and tools. Any platforms, apps, or integrations you introduce should be easy to use and accessible to everyone on the team.
Take your teamwork to the next level—and help it stay there
Whether you’re looking to reduce unnecessary meetings and say more in less time, connect around common goals, or build a sense of belonging, Dropbox has the tools to help you achieve and maintain excellent teamwork.
Dropbox provides a unified space for team members to work, communicate, and collaborate. Create shared calendars, to-do lists, interactive briefs, and meeting agendas in Dropbox Paper, and overcome the limitations of remote collaboration to connect more deeply with your team members through personalized video messages in Dropbox Capture.