By Stephanie Brewer

There is an old saying that asks this question: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Try clapping with one hand. It’s not much of a sound, is it?

Or, imagine going to an orchestra concert and only a single bass player shows up. It wouldn’t be much of a concert, would it?

Two hands are needed to make a clapping noise and many hands clapping can create a loud roar. And, a concert is much fuller when all the musicians join together and, each contributing his or her musical part, create a full, harmonious sound.

An orchestra is a great analogy for working together in a team.  Individual musicians join together to create beautiful music. While it’s true that an individual can contribute good work alone, a team can often accomplish more in a shorter period of time. Working in a group also means the benefit of combined brainpower. Different people have unique strengths, knowledge and skills from yours. Together, you can often achieve things that an individual wouldn’t have the knowledge or skills to accomplish alone.

Working in a group requires some key steps to be effective. Below are some important steps to help make all your teamwork smooth and productive!

ONE: Clarify the Objective

Confirm that the team understands and agrees on the goal or purpose of the team. Are you meeting to plan an event, solve a problem or get a particular job done? Together, create a clear purpose statement and confirm that each team member agrees.

TWO: Establish Respect and Safety

The team should agree on a set of guidelines for working together. Begin with respect and safety as important values. All communication should be respectful and every team member should feel safe contributing ideas and opinions to the work.

THREE: Create a Roadmap

Devote a meeting to deciding on the major work (or milestones) that needs to be accomplished to reach the goal. This is your ‘roadmap’ to achieving your objective or purpose. List the steps to create a roadmap or ‘project plan’ to guide your work. Set a date to complete each step and keep the team on schedule.

FOUR: Assign Roles & Responsibilities

Now that you know what needs to be done, decide who should ‘own’ or be responsible for each step. Make the most of your team member’s strengths. Is someone a natural leader? Assign that person the role of Team Lead. Is someone else good at taking notes, talking with people, organizing? Assign tasks to people based on their abilities and/or interests.

FIVE: Hold Team Members Accountable

End every meeting (even the first one) with a list of actions that each team member will take and a deadline for completing the action. Begin each meeting by reviewing the action steps from the last meeting. Ask each team member to share an update on his or her action items. This simple habit will create accountability and keep the teamwork moving forward.

Remember that you won’t always agree with every team member. But you CAN agree to work together professionally to get the work done. Set the tone by being a good team member and others will follow your example.