7 “Big Picture” Rules You Can’t Miss for Building Effective & Collaborative Teamwork



There’s this popular misconception that the individual must disappear within the group for a team to be effective. In truth, each person taking ownership of their individual contribution to the mission of the team makes the team move forward. Perhaps that’s where the misconception came from? The individual recognizes that their contribution is more for the team rather than themselves. Still, they understand each person’s contribution must be done well for the team to thrive.

Think of your favorite teams…

Sports Teams have athletes play in positions.

Superhero Crews have superheroes with special abilities.

Orchestras have musicians in instrument sections.

Teamwork is about combining individual power for collective gain. 

It’s nice to find commonality in striving for a goal, but opposition or resistance can come up. Working together in groups becomes an exercise in resourcefulness, patience, empathy, and resilience. You can find ground rules to make team collaborations less stressful. If each person is aware of what makes a good team, they can all contribute in a positive way to the overall goal.

Common Factors of Team Performance: Communication, Roles, Expectations & Assumptions, and Division

Team performance can be predicted by observing four types of interactions: Communication, Roles, Expectations & Assumptions, and Division. You’ll find that these are determining factors that influence the current state of your team, such as team morale. The four factors are aspects you need to build awareness around. You benefit from knowing how these interactions are playing out in your team.

Communication: Communication refers to the level of transparency, openness, and clarity that happens in team interactions.

Things you want: People are on the same page and open to discussion while they diligently work on their tasks.

Things you don’t want: People lack the information they need to complete their tasks and there is no effort to make sure people fully understand what is happening in the team. 

Roles: Roles refers to how mindful team members are of what they bring to the group. This can be a skill (tech, outreach, craftsmanship) or a dominant work style (action-taker/ big-picture-thinker, freestyle-and-flow planner/ by-the-book planner).

Things you want: People can describe the role they bring to the group, apply their specialities to how they contribute, and understand the roles that fellow teammates bring into the group.

Things you don’t want: People aren’t using their strongest skills and argue on how to do things not realizing they are taking away from actually working on the team’s goal.

Expectations & Assumptions: Expectations & Assumptions refers to teammates holding each other accountable and approaching each other without unfair entitlement.

Things you want: People communicate their needs and do not assume the entire team thinks in the same way they do.

Things you don’t want: People are frustrated that no one is doing what they assumed they’d be doing, and therefore feeling distant and less cooperative.

Division:  Division refers to the fact that a gap in interests will always exist somewhere in a group of people.

Things you want: People know where they have a difference in opinion and they move on to more common ground or resolve the gap by bridging solutions.

Things you don’t want: People constantly agitating the team’s division and trying to force team members to take sides.

List of 7 “Big Picture” Rules for Effective & Collaborative Teamwork

Luckily, we know a few team tips that generally work. We’ll give you 7 rules that contribute to the big picture of effective and collaborative teamwork!

1. Respect others: A generally fair measure of respect is the ability to maintain consideration. It’s a balance of being in integrity with yourself (true to yourself) and keeping in mind that other people are human (their own person) too.

2. Embrace open communication: An environment where people feel comfortable enough to share their perspective helps teams avoid miscommunications, dissolve grudges, and acknowledge differences in opinion. 

3. Proactively include diversity: Encourage diverse cultures, upbringings, thinking, work styles, and the like to tap into a larger view of life, problems, and solutions. You may need a perspective unlike yours to find answers you didn’t realize were there.

4. Show honest dedication: All members should strive to collaborate, but also be upfront about the level of commitment they can bring as a team member. It’s respectful to the team’s time and resources to know which situations they can and cannot depend on certain teammates.

5. Don’t forget emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence (when used for good) can help team members motivate each other positively and create a safer team vibe. It helps people focus on bringing the best of themselves instead of becoming distant from the team.

6. Empower others: Anyone can show up better than what you imagined when they feel empowered. Remind people of their personal power, and watch how they surprise you.

7. Follow problems with curiosity: Instead of grasping at a problem, make space for questions. Curiosity will help team members find more context. This can lead to better understanding.

3 Hacks for Teamwork in Social Enterprise Accelerators

We can’t possibly forget the unique experience of working with social enterprises. A few of the team members at People Helping People have gone through social impact accelerators like Give Back Hack. We know the excitement and stress of banding together to build an MVP that the group presents within a certain time frame. Actually, we’re even hosting our own Sustainable Innovation Lab

As a bonus, here are 3 tips that will help you and your team stay focused as you build out your social impact solution!

Mind your timelines: In most accelerators, stages of your idea development have exact time constraints to match the checkpoints of the program. Be aware of how you want your team process to flow, and agree early on what signals your team to pivot when needed.

Failures are lessons: Failures give you access to information. You can use failures as feedback to choose better next time. It may not always serve you in the moment, but it can be useful to you later.

Resources are given, found, and made: Some resources are provided to you by mentors. Some resources are found along the way. Some resources you make on the way yourself. Being resourceful by using all three methods makes everything an opportunity.

3 Principles to Remember as a Baseline

To wrap up, we’ll share 3 team principles you can adopt for when you need a quick reminder to get yourself back on track with the team. Keep them in mind:

Principle #1: If we all contribute, the goal we reach has a chance to be bigger.

Principle #2: We learn more when we discuss things together.
Principle #3: Our time together is more about supporting each other, and less about impressing each other.

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