Team members need to cooperate to get the job done, whatever that job may be. You can apply three simple strategies to promote cooperation among your team members:
- when deciding how to approach work, put the team's needs first because, in the long run, that's what's best for you too
- accept and perform unpleasant tasks with a positive attitude and try to get others to do the same, and
- discourage competition, which is usually unhealthy for building a cohesive team
Putting the team's needs first
To put the team's needs first, it's best to develop the habit of acting unselfishly. When someone asks you to go above and beyond your own responsibilities, your answer should be "yes."
Proactively searching for ways to help the team is another effective strategy for increasing cooperation and building cohesion. To be proactive means finding ways to help the team that go beyond simply reacting to a need or an assignment. If you have spare time, offer to help others on the team. Or you could identify and pre-emptively tackle a potential problem in order to make the team's work easier in the long run.
Accepting unpleasant tasks positively
Most people know that working with others on a team involves accepting your share of unpleasant tasks. But an important strategy for building cooperation is to take on those tasks with a positive attitude.
If you accept the task with a smile instead of a grumble, you'll demonstrate that the team's needs are more important than your own. Others will notice your actions and follow suit, creating a more cooperative atmosphere.
It's clear that if team members most often respond to an unpleasant task by trying to get out of it or by just saying "no," there's a lack of cooperation. But simply agreeing to perform an unwanted task doesn't guarantee a cooperative environment. If people say "yes" but continue to complain about having to perform the task, your team may have cooperation issues.
Some corporate management styles use competition as a motivator, offering rewards if an individual or a team becomes the number one performer or meets certain goals.
Some corporate cultures encourage competition, some tasks lend themselves to it, and some individuals are just naturally competitive. But to the extent that competition among team members inhibits cooperation, it works against team efforts and affects team cohesiveness.
By definition, teams are made up of members who collaborate – that is, they work for a mutual win, not individual advancement. If another team member is out for personal advantage, how can you trust that person to do what's good for the team?
When members show signs of competitiveness – either overtly by challenging others on the team or in more subtle ways – both cooperation and cohesion are at risk. Your strategies in this case should be the following:
- consider the team's success as your own – If you act as if the team's overall well-being and success are the measure of your personal success, competitiveness is out the door. The belief that the eventual success of the team is more important than small individual successes is a solid foundation for cooperation. It will encourage the sharing of resources and knowledge.
- encourage others to adopt a collaborative approach – Rather than competing with someone on your team, ask that person to work with you. When the two of you combine your resources and knowledge, you'll make the team stronger. Your teammates are your partners, not your enemies. Demonstrate your appreciation of your teammates and make sure to give credit when it's due.
Accomplishing team goals and making your team a cohesive unit requires effective communication, mutual trust, and the ability to cooperate. How you approach your work has a great effect on your team's cooperative atmosphere, whether you're a team leader or simply a team member.
By putting the team's needs above your own when the two conflict, you set a cooperative tone. To keep that atmosphere of cooperation, you need to take on all tasks – pleasant and unpleasant – with a positive attitude and avoid any signs of competitiveness.