How to improve teamwork skills: 5 simple tricks

We all understand the importance of teamwork in the workplace and the value of good communication. But sometimes we’re missing a trick or two when it comes to identifying, articulating and improving our teamwork skills. Here are 5 simple tricks to making yourself a more effective team player.

And it starts with you.

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Discover your strengths

Good teamwork begins with understanding what you as an individual are bringing to the party. When we work to our strengths, it boosts engagement, productivity and wellbeing. Your Belbin Individual Report can pinpoint those strengths. Perhaps you’re detail-focused and good at close work? Or perhaps you’re good at meeting new people and making connections? Pushing for deadlines? We call them your Team Role preferences – the contributions you most naturally make to a team. Your Report will give detailed feedback on your particular combination of Team Roles, so that you can get to grips with the interplay of your behaviours at work.

Find out what others think

If you’re part of a team, it makes sense to ask others about your skills too. We may have a particular idea of how we want to come across or what kinds of work we want to do, but that might not square with what goes on day-to-day in the work environment. Perhaps you have hidden talents that others see? Improvement comes from learning, and we learn by asking for feedback from others. If we don’t, we risk taking our own views as gospel – and that can lead us down the wrong path. As part of the Belbin process, you’ll be able to ask up to six colleagues (or managers, or those who work for you) to complete Observer Assessments – simple questionnaires which give a broader context to your behaviours and help you gauge how effectively your strengths are coming across. We’ll offer more advice on what to do if your teamwork skills are slightly different to what you thought, and how to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

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Learn to appreciate all contributions

When we’re used to working in a particular way, we can – even without thinking – neglect, devalue or even reject other approaches and ways of doing things. If you’re someone who likes systems and routines, it can be uncomfortable to acknowledge the value of a change agent who wants to share ideas. As someone who likes to take a broad view, it can be difficult to discern when a situation requires a subject expert. When you learn about the Team Roles in your team (the Belbin Team Report is a great place to start), you’ll gain a newfound respect for the contributions others are making and why the difference of approach (we call it behavioural diversity) is so important to get teams working effectively.

Clarify roles and responsibilities

A good team has a common goal; a shared objective. And that objective comes with a body of work. Once you understand who is best suited to which kinds of tasks, it becomes easier to know where to look for help. For a team leader, it becomes more straightforward to delegate work according to strengths, which means greater engagement. Our job descriptions might feel static and formal. But understanding our Belbin Team Roles (and the associated working styles) can help to classify work more informally, with reference to the behaviours required. For example, a document is ready for review. Does it need to be analysed for viability (the purview of the Monitor Evaluator) or is it past that point and ready for proofing (in which case, it would require a Completer Finisher touch)? Since we all have a number of Team Role strengths, it could be that the work is assigned to the same individual in both cases, but with direction as to which approach is required at the time. Framing tasks and responsibilities in these terms can aid communication, and prevent unnecessary work and frustration.

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Talk about what’s going wrong and celebrate your successes

An effective team is good at problem solving when things go wrong and marking the occasion when things go right. Even when we understand our strengths and are working on cultivating what we do best, problems occur. There are misunderstandings, territorial clashes over work, arguments over which approach to take. When we understand one another’s perspective, we can begin to depersonalise and unpick the conflict. We can deploy strong arbiters or those with a broader view to help point things in a new direction. It’s equally important to celebrate success. This isn't just a case of giving ourselves a pat on the back, it's about acknowledging the practices that enabled the win and embedding the notion of thoughtful, conscious teamwork in company culture.

Next steps

Want to get started? The best way to begin is by discovering your Team Role strengths. If you’re interested in honing your team’s skills, why not contact us to find out more about what Belbin has to offer?

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