These Three Strategies Will Build Teams that Succeed

Every team that succeeds will have to do the same, but they will need to make sure their story is a continuation of the previous one

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Many people believe the adage "teamwork makes the dream work." Nearly three out of four employers rate teamwork and collaboration as "very important," according to a recent survey by the Queen's University of Charlotte. In fact, building great teams was so important to Google that the company spent two years studying 180 teams.


But companies don't have to be global giants or spend years on research to crack the teamwork code. These three single strategies are key to building strong teams and can ultimately help businesses to achieve greater success.

1. Encourage Debate

When people work together, be cautious of "groupthink," which can cause teams to lose sight of the bigger picture. Groupthink involves making decisions as a group in a way that discourages critical thinking. A famous example of groupthink is the Chernobyl disaster. The head engineer involved in running the nuclear project threatened team members with termination when they flagged concerns and enforced conformity. His team then pushed their reactor too far over the brink, into disaster.

To combat groupthink, companies should encourage each employee to voice their opinion even--and maybe even especially--when they disagree with everyone in the room. Teams should be prompted to debate problems out. When there is a group member that disagrees, the larger team should always question things to see if there is a better way to do something or to solve a problem.

At the same time, businesses should make it clear to employees that if they disagree with a team member, they should always bring data to the table to argue their point. When team members disagree and debate, they should be vocal and direct, yet respectful and open to the other side's point of view. And then make a decision with the ultimate goal in mind.

2. Emphasize Empathy

Empathy is a key quality that should be valued and promoted within a business. Employees should be encouraged to try to see the world from the angle of others and bring that perspective as part of how they make decisions. Team members especially should be urged to try to put themselves in the shoes of their colleagues when conflict arises.

Creating an empathetic culture can actually have an impact on a company's bottom line. Harvard Business School created the "Empathy Index," by looking for the companies that retained the best people and created environments where diverse teams thrive. HBS found that the top 10 most empathetic companies—which included Alphabet, Southwest Airlines and Whole Foods—increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10 and generated 50 percent more earnings.

3. Encourage Laughter

Achieving great things at work as a team is meaningless if that is achieved at the cost of happiness. Happiness, great work and stupendous growth can all co-exist if companies encourage teams to stay positive, and laugh often. There are many activities companies can plan to promote laughter and teamwork.

One fun group activity is to have company teams reproduce a particular painting (like the Mona Lisa). A facilitator should divide the painting into smaller portions and assign them to each member of a team, who will have to go ahead reproduce it on a larger scale. Finally, the project is brought together like a mosaic, so everyone can see the enlarged version. The final version usually provokes much laughter.

Another exercise that can get teams laughing is hosting a comedy improve event. A business can appoint someone to be the facilitator—this person will write down random words on a few bits of paper—then ask a team leader to come forward and pick one piece of paper. Their team will have to act out a story built around that word in ten minutes. Every team that succeeds will have to do the same, but they will need to make sure their story is a continuation of the previous one. These stories are often ridiculous and can prompt a lot of laughter.