Team-Building Advice From Expert John C. Maxwell

What is the best team-building advice? As a manager, how can you encourage teamwork?

Good team-building advice includes cultivating a shared team identity and encouraging self-sacrifice for the good of the team. By learning to encourage team values, you can make your team much more effective.

Continue reading to discover the best ways to encourage teamwork.

Encouraging Teamwork Over Self-Interest

Assembling a team of capable individuals is only the starting point. Your next step is getting team members to value the common good of the team and its goals more than their personal interests and desires. People can sometimes be tempted to seek personal glory and recognition. However, this self-interest only diminishes what the team can accomplish as a whole. Here is some expert team-building advice to promote a collective focus among team members.

Promote a Shared Identity

One way to help people become more team-oriented is to create a shared identity that unifies your team. A shared identity gives people a sense of belonging and purpose. When everyone wants similar things and follows the same guiding principles, they’re more motivated and committed to achieving team goals rather than pursuing their own interests. To create a shared team identity, you must establish a compelling vision and meaningful values that everyone can appreciate and embrace.

1) Create a strong vision for your team. A vision—a common future everyone aspires toward—aligns your team and gives them direction. When they not only know what they’re doing but also why, they’ll have more confidence and motivation. To be compelling, your vision should encourage integrity, stoke people’s passion, build on your team’s tradition, instill a sense of purpose, have realistic steps to achieving that purpose, and help your team see its potential.

2) Create meaningful team values. Creating team values gives your team a unique identity and attracts others with similar values to your team. Collaborate with your team members to come up with values your team can share—for example, honesty, positivity, and fun. To encourage team members to adopt these values, model the values yourself, implement them into your team operations, and praise people when they display the team values. 

Strengthen Your Team’s Tribal Culture

The authors of Tribal Leadership explain how creating a shared identity transforms your team from a collection of self-interested individuals into a cohesive and collaborative group. They explain that humans naturally form tribes, which are groups with shared social norms and ways of working. A tribe develops through five stages, evolving from a loose affiliation of members—who, despite feeling some loyalty to their group, are largely driven by individual impulses—to a cohesive group that works well together and forms a productive, innovative team that can enact groundbreaking changes. 

According to the authors, only 25% of the modern workforce moves beyond the stages where team members are competitive and individualistic. The authors say that establishing a vision, or purpose, and a shared set of values is the key to making this happen, and they advise that to do so, you should ask each team member what they think the team works in service of and have them explain their answers. Then, facilitate a discussion until you reach a consensus that everyone agrees on and supports.

The authors recommend creating values collaboratively with your team, but they add that you should also recruit new members based on those values. One way to do this is to tell a story during the interview that illustrates one of your team’s values. If the candidate can identify the message of the story, then you know they understand the value.

Be Willing to Make Sacrifices

Next, for a team to work well toward a collective goal, all members must be willing to make sacrifices for the team. Team members must be ready to take risks, put in the hard work to improve their skills and accomplish tasks, and sideline their personal interests for group goals. To build a team willing to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve greatness, you can lead by example: Show your willingness to make sacrifices, and others will follow suit. Then, praise people who put the team before themselves.

(Shortform note: In The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner agree that to build a strong team, you, as the team’s leader, should first articulate your team’s values and next, live by them. They write that it’s only when people see you “practice what you preach” that they’ll follow your lead enthusiastically and be inspired to also commit to those values. Research has shown that direct reports mimic the behavior of their leaders quite closely, and thus, the most effective way to encourage team members to put the good of the group ahead of their own good is to do the same.) 

Team-Building Advice From Expert John C. Maxwell

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of John C. Maxwell's "The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork summary:

  • Why building a high-performing team requires hard work
  • Why no one can accomplish anything significant by themselves
  • How to recruit and organize the right people to achieve your goal

Becca King

Becca’s love for reading began with mysteries and historical fiction, and it grew into a love for nonfiction history and more. Becca studied journalism as a graduate student at Ohio University while getting their feet wet writing at local newspapers, and now enjoys blogging about all things nonfiction, from science to history to practical advice for daily living.

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