Feel like your team is in a slump? Here are ten things to stop doing–and what to do instead–to improve team effectiveness.
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When you brought your HR assistant, Shea, onto your team, she was your best hire to date. Driven, motivated, and always looking for ways to improve your processes, work with others, and find creative solutions.
Recently, though, you’ve noticed that Shea is in a bit of a slump. She’s still nailing her deliverables, but it often seems she’s just going through the motions. She’s cutting corners and other people complain they’re often waiting on her so they can complete their tasks. Most worryingly, she’s not taking the initiative to collaborate with coworkers as often.
Some leaders may chalk this up to the employee’s problem. Maybe Shea has something in her personal life that’s distracting her. Or maybe she’s just lost the drive she had when she joined the team.
A good leader, however, will ask themself whether there’s something about the company that’s impacting employee performance. Especially if they see it happening with multiple team members.
You see, when it comes to effective teamwork, it can be easy to slip into bad habits, though no one does it intentionally.
That’s why managers need to be aware of the issues that can unintentionally impact how effective their people are—and guide them to do things differently. In this post, you’ll find an action plan for improving team effectiveness with ten things you need to stop doing–and what should do instead–to build a more motivated, productive team.
If you want your team to work more effectively, give them the right workspace.
Switchboard’s meeting and project rooms give teams a place to get together and collaborate in real-time and async.
Below, we’ll go into detail about all the things you need to stop doing–and what to start doing instead—to improve team work effectiveness. First, though, check out this table for a quick visual overview.
10 things you need to stop doing for greater team effectiveness—and what to do instead
As a leader, it’s up to you to build a team that thrives and works well together. That means motivating and rewarding everyone–including Shea–to work with others and take ownership of their work and results. Here are the ten things you need to stop doing if you want to build a more effective team. It’s not all doom and gloom, though; we’ll also cover the things you should do instead.
1. You only listen to the loudest voices in the room
Some of your team members will be more outspoken than others–it’s inevitable. That’s not an issue in itself, but when quieter employees don’t feel like their ideas are heard, they may not feel encouraged to contribute to conversations in the future.
Think about your team meetings. Does it ever feel like the same two or three employees are jumping in to share their opinions while the rest of your team sits back as passive bystanders?
If that situation sounds familiar, you need to find ways to help your entire team contribute to the conversation.
What to do instead: Create opportunities for everyone to contribute
Including diverse viewpoints, experiences, and ways of thinking is a pillar of high-performing teams. When you create opportunities for collaboration and innovation for all your employees, you get a more engaged team and better results.
Seventy-nine percent of workers on collaborative teams feel well-prepared to tackle obstacles (that’s four times more than employees at organizations where teamwork is less common).
To help everyone feel comfortable sharing their ideas, make sure your meetings are structured in a way that lets everyone contribute and get involved. This might involve following virtual meeting best practices like asking people if they want to present or using a round-robin technique where each person contributes one thought, idea, etc. before others speak. You also need to create a psychologically safe environment where employees know their opinions won’t be shot down.
Additionally, empower people to communicate however they feel most comfortable. In a remote or hybrid workplace, that means using interactive meeting tools that help keep everyone engaged and a part of the conversation, allowing them to communicate via audio, video, or chat.
Pro tip: Use a tool like Switchboard that offers a multiplayer experience. Instead of listening to one person present, employees can all actively participate in meetings–they can share and interact with files, communicate via chat, leave notes, and use polls or emoji reactions to play an active role. The timer feature also helps avoid one person dominating the meeting.
2. Your team isn’t aligned on organizational goals
While your employees may be focused on working towards their individual professional development, they may not be investing energy in reaching the broader goals of your organization.
However, you can’t expect your employees to be motivated to work towards a common goal if they aren’t clear on what it is. You want your people to be aligned with your mission, values, and objectives, but that’s not possible without buy-in and involvement at every level.
What to do instead: Set team OKRs with the bigger picture in mind
As a team leader, it’s your job to ensure individual and team objectives are aligned with those of the broader organization. Set clear goals, as well as action items for achieving them, that everyone on your team can relate to and participate in. You can do this using OKRs or the SMART goal framework. This means goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
For example, imagine one of your organization’s priorities is to increase customer satisfaction. Here are examples of some OKRs each team can set so employees have a better understanding of how their work contributes to bigger-picture goals:
- Objective: Improve customer satisfaction
- Key Result: Achieve 90% customer satisfaction score based on NPS surveys
- Objective: Deliver high-value product capabilities
- Key Result: Launch payment integration feature by Q3
- Objective: Drive increased product usage and retention
- Key Result: Increase DAU/MAU ratio by 30%
- Objective: Expand brand awareness and reach
- Key Result: Increase website traffic by 40%
One last point: Effective communication is key to getting buy-in from your team. Clearly outline these goals with your team and store them somewhere employees can readily access them as needed, like in your company handbook or project management software. If you’re using Switchboard, you can create a dedicated room to permanently save this information so everyone knows where to find it.
“The easier you can make it for someone to know whether they’ve accomplished a goal, the easier it is for them to work towards and achieve it.”
-Tarah Keech, founder of Tarah Keech Coaching
3. Your different departments work in silos
The bigger your organization is, the more likely it is people will work in silos. This makes brainstorming and idea-sharing a challenge. When this happens, employees don’t work together as effectively as they could. Even at small companies, different teams may not naturally reach out to each other unless you make a conscious effort to bring them together and show them the benefits of teamwork.
Even when teams work well together, information can be siloed in different apps and places, which means you lose a lot of time digging around to find it or sharing it with others.
What to do instead: Build cross-functional teams and keep information in one place
To build a cross-functional team, foster an environment of trust, empathy, and psychological safety through open communication and support. You should also offer opportunities for spontaneous interactions and team building, both through employee engagement games, collaborative projects, or during day-to-day teamwork or tasks.
Additionally, use tools, like Switchboard, that allow your whole team to work together. It lets you create persistent rooms for all your projects that employees can jump into whenever they want to brainstorm, get up to speed, or find what they need.
That way, different departments aren’t siloed working in different apps and you can communicate in context and find the information you need. It’s also easy for your employees to reach out to each other to collaborate and ask questions or hop into a quick huddle to figure things out.
4. You’re using the wrong tools for collaboration
Team efficiency hinges on using the right software to help your team work together. For example, if you’re still using traditional video conferencing platforms that rely on one-sided screen sharing, you’re not giving your people a place to work together on files, brainstorm, or run spontaneous check-ins as if they were sitting next to each other.
While you may already have project management and team communication software, these tools won’t help your team be more effective unless they make it easier for them to work together.
What to do instead: Use a digital workspace to get more done async and in real time
To make your team more effective, give them a platform that lets them get more done. In Switchboard you can organize all your favorite browser-based apps, files, and documents your team uses in dedicated project or meeting rooms—no need for any integrations. Everyone can work together on them–or add their contributions async. This makes everything instantly multiplayer and improves team connection, collaboration, and productivity.
The tool also lets teams communicate in real time with video, audio, chat, polls, and emoji reactions without having to share their screens.
5. You have unclear communication channels and processes
Getting your employees to reach their full potential is next to impossible when your communication isn’t clear. From bigger picture items like your team’s goals to day-to-day details like project timelines and deadlines, if your team lacks clarity, it’ll hamper their effectiveness.
With almost half of all meetings lacking a clear purpose or goal, you need to improve the way you communicate with your team to improve their effectiveness, both in real time and async.
What to do instead: Establish communication guidelines
Your team’s success depends on its ability to effectively communicate, and a big part of that is meetings. Almost a fifth of remote workers report that meetings are their primary means of communicating with their team. That means, to improve your meetings, you should:
- Communicate the “why” behind the meeting
- Use the right meeting tool
- Set clear expectations with a meeting agenda
- Promote open, transparent communication
- Ditch the meetings if you can communicate async instead
Many people also heavily rely on communicating with coworkers via messaging apps. Therefore, you also need to establish guidelines that help your employees effectively communicate via these channels.
That means keeping chats focused and establishing policies on when employees should use each communication channel, whether that’s Slack, email, or an online workspace like Switchboard. Also, codify things like how long team members or clients should have to wait for a reply, and whether it’s acceptable to check messages out of hours (hint: we don’t think so).
6. Roles and responsibilities are unclear
When people don’t take ownership of their work, progress is slow. For example, if your product managers aren’t sure whether they or the UX team should be doing customer research, you end up with lots of time wasted talking about whose responsibility things are—with little progress or results.
This isn’t about giving anyone less to do: It’s about making it clear what their role is and what your expectations are. This lets them focus on getting their work done rather than questioning things.
What to do instead: Lead by example and set expectations
Place transparency and ownership at the center of your company’s values. That means setting clear expectations for what people should be doing, and holding everyone accountable–yourself included.
Lead by example here: Avoid taking on tasks that are outside of your scope, and delegate when necessary. Setting expectations should happen on a large scale (e.g. clearly outlining role requirements) as well as small scale. Assign tasks after each meeting and follow up periodically to ensure everyone knows what they’re responsible for.
For example, your product team might meet for a design review. At the end of the session, make a list of who’s responsible for each change or improvement. Follow up a few days later to ensure everyone’s clear on what they need to do and has the resources they need to do it.
Pro tip: Switchboard’s persistent meeting rooms save your work and keep it accessible to everyone even after the meeting is over. Keep all your materials, including files, notes, and meeting recordings in one place so everyone knows what their action items are.
You can also use the AI feature to summarize sticky notes made during the meeting. This saves a ton of time and helps keep everyone on track.
7. You aim for perfectionism
Perfectionism can be the enemy of progress as it’s easy for employees to get hung up on something being as good as possible before they turn it in. This can lead to bottlenecks and all-around decreases in productivity, especially if other people are waiting on one person so they can move ahead.
We’re not just talking about deliverables here. A focus on perfectionism can also hinder the decision-making process. This keeps both employees and leadership from getting things rolling in a timely manner. Taken to extremes, this can even put your business at risk if you’re slow to react to threats or market changes.
What to do instead: Work toward milestones
Establish what success looks like in its most functional, no-frills form. Focus on achieving that before you iterate and improve.
What exactly does this mean? Rather than pushing employees to turn in a perfect product or settle on the “right” solution, set smaller milestones and implement a structured decision-making framework. This takes the pressure off getting something perfect on the first try and emphasizes the importance of just getting it done. Live by the maxim “done is better than perfect” and lead by example.
You can always make improvements to your idea–what’s important is that there’s something to improve upon. It can be helpful to set OKRs and use an agile framework to organize projects. These methods place a heavy emphasis on tracking progress and focusing on the task at hand rather than getting overwhelmed by the end goal.
For example, if you want your operations department to increase overall team productivity, set that goal as the “objective” of your OKR. Then, create smaller “key results” that are easier to track and accomplish, such as:
- Establish team to-do lists
- Define time metrics for specific department tasks
- Create and present time management training
8. Your employees lack the skills or training they need
Even if your employees are clear on their roles and goals, they can’t be effective if they don’t have the skills they need—and those change over time. Just because they were prepared for their position when you hired them doesn’t mean they still feel equipped to do their job.
As one example, digital skills are constantly evolving, with new technologies like AI changing the way we work. If your team doesn't get the training they need to stay on top of the latest trends—for example, crafting AI prompts—they won’t be able to do their job as effectively as they could.
What to do instead: Invest in ongoing training and development
Make learning and development (L&D) an integral part of everyone’s role, but avoid training for the sake of training. Make sure all the courses and training sessions you offer are targeted to specific needs, roles, and goals so they genuinely improve the way your people work.
Usefulness is essential for getting team buy-in for your L&D efforts and the most bang for your budget. Paint a clear picture of how a training course, say on using AI tools, can make your employees’ jobs easier. For your marketing team, for example, it could speed up writing email or newsletter templates or social media posts.
9. Your team feels micromanaged
While you may think you’re just giving them extra guidance and looking out for overall quality, micromanaging your team can have a negative impact on performance. It isn’t just annoying for employees: it’s basically showing them you don’t trust them to do their job well.
What to do instead: Show your people you trust them by giving them more ownership
Coach Tarah Keech notes that trust is a matter of risk assessment, saying, “If leaders come to me and they're lacking trust with their teams, the first question I ask is where the risks are coming from.” This means that to stop micromanaging and start trusting your people, you first need to assess what risks you’re worried about and find ways to address them.
Take this example: You don’t trust your employee to deliver a report correctly, so you overload them with instructions and follow-ups. “If you don't trust that your employees get the report to your standards or on time, then how can you help that employee understand your expectations?” says Tarah. “Rather than think about it in terms of distrust, instead focus on how to resolve the risks that are presenting themselves.”
To deal with this, delegate tasks according to team strengths, but don’t leave your employees to fend for themselves. Tarah emphasizes that you do have to give them the tools they need to complete their tasks effectively without much input, whether that be resources, tools, or training.
10. Your people are experiencing burnout and work overload
No matter how many team-building activities you organize and how much time you put into communicating with your team, they won’t be able to work their best if they don’t feel their best.
If you’re not tapped into what your team needs, it can be easy to let their well-being go by the wayside. Even when employees are meeting deadlines and have a comfortable workload, they can feel unengaged and disinterested if you don’t give them the recognition they deserve.
What to do instead: Set realistic deadlines and celebrate your people
To avoid team burnout, set realistic deadlines. Closely track task completion times to allocate work based on capacity, and create contingency plans in the case of unexpected sickness or backlogs. This will help you ensure you don’t overload your team with a workload they can’t handle.
Additionally, celebrate your team’s progress and wins on a regular basis. Be sure to show them their hard work is appreciated, and provide your employees with timely, candid recognition and feedback so everyone is clear on how they bring value to your team and how they can improve.
For example, create a “wins” channel in Slack or your favorite messaging app where team members can shout out their colleagues for their hard work, good ideas, and great results. It’s a little thing that goes a long way toward making employees feel valuable and appreciated.
A clear action plan: Your roadmap to improving team effectiveness
HR assistant Shea’s lack of teamwork and slipping standards might have less to do with her personal life and a lot to do with her workplace environment. Though it’s never intentional, it can be easy to let teamwork fall by the wayside and slip into bad habits unless you understand the value of collaboration. As a leader, you also need to identify and eliminate barriers to teamwork or task completion for your people to be effective.
When you understand the issues that impact how your people work, you can address them before they become an issue—and improve team effectiveness.
To do this, instead of only listening to the loudest voices, create opportunities for everyone to contribute; align team OKRs with organizational goals and work toward milestones, not perfection; build well-trained cross-functional teams and use the right tools to avoid siloed working and information; establish communication guidelines and set clear expectations and realistic deadlines.
When you do all that, you can stop micromanaging and start letting people own their work.
Collaboration and leadership go hand in hand. As a leader or people manager, you can give your team the support and guidance they need to help them work more effectively together. When you do this, it can improve employee satisfaction and retention and help you reach individual, team, and company goals.
You also need to know which collaboration tools your team needs to succeed. When you use a digital workspace like Switchboard, you give your people a place to find each other to get work done in persistent rooms that save your work. They can also access all the information and resources they need for a project, which helps eliminate silos and roadblocks—and improves team effectiveness.
If you want your team to work more effectively, give them the right workspace.
Switchboard’s meeting and project rooms give teams a place to get together and collaborate in real-time and async.
Frequently asked questions about action plans for improving team effectiveness
How can you measure the success of this action plan?
To measure whether or not your action plan is working, there are a number of metrics you can track. First, send out an anonymous survey to your employees to gauge how they’re feeling in terms of motivation, alignment, and your company’s culture.
Additionally, you can track team productivity and performance to measure whether this plan is having a positive impact on employee output. Some good key performance indicators (KPIs) to follow include workload efficiency, projects completed, and task completion time.