Find out how to unite your team by helping them move from acceptance to alignment. Watch your bottom line improve as your team becomes more collaborative.
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When a group of mountain climbers tackle a treacherous peak, they count on each other just as much as their gear. If anything unexpected should happen as they ascend, like a frayed rope or missed foothold, their cohesion as a team is what gets each climber to safety.
Just as a strong rope is made of individual fibers woven together, a strong team is made up of individual people united by great leadership and a common mission. Your team might not be expert mountain climbers—but they’ll still perform better and collaborate more effectively if they’re fully aligned.
That’s why you need to know how to build team unity. Because even when people are in the same place and moving in the same direction, that doesn’t mean that they’re united. And if they’re not, it can harm performance, morale, and–ultimately–your results.
To create highly collaborative, successful teams, it helps to be intentional about creating team unity and understand how it contributes to a positive company culture people want to be part of.
In this article, you’ll learn the three levels of team unity and how it benefits your employees and your business. You’ll also learn how to form cohesive, aligned teams built on trust and collaboration.
Want to build a unified team?
Switchboard is a collaborative online workspace that lets you share anything from project files to virtual games with your team.
How unity benefits your teams and business
Strong collaboration and a united team are more than just workplace ideals—they're the defining characteristics of a successful company. And we can back it up: According to Asana's Anatomy of Work Index, collaborative, unified organizations report almost double the revenue than disjointed companies.
Since 78% of employees say they're looking for a more supportive work culture, strong leaders will prioritize team unity and collaboration to improve workplace performance and employee retention.
Three levels of team unity
A cohesive team develops in three progressive levels: acceptance, agreement, and alignment. As a team and business leader, it's important to know the difference between the stages. This helps you understand the best way to communicate and set expectations with team members at each stage until you reach alignment.
- Acceptance: This is the bare minimum for a unified team. Your people agree to your terms without protest, whether they agree or disagree.
- Agreement: Your team agrees with your ideas and generally supports them. But they aren't really personally committed to making them happen. They understand with their minds, but they don't feel it in their hearts. That's why you might not face much resistance, but you struggle to actually make things happen.
- Alignment: This is the ideal stage of unity, where your people stand with you and are fully committed to making your shared vision a reality. Everyone has each other's back and voices support for their team.
It's worth noting that your team can be in alignment without being in agreement. It happens all the time: When a team doesn't necessarily agree with their leader but there's enough trust there to find alignment between the leader's proposed actions and the team's support.
Yet, as the leader, it's your job to create this alignment—it doesn't happen automatically. So, use the following steps to help you find alignment with your team and reach new summits together.
9 ways to build team unity and reach alignment
Just as mountaineers rely on each other's strengths to conquer majestic peaks, you can also harness the power of team alignment to overcome challenges and achieve remarkable success.
For instance, 79% of workers at collaborative organizations are well-prepared to adapt to business challenges—four times higher than less collaborative companies. So, rope up and secure your harness as we embark on this ascent toward a more close-knit team.
1. Establish shared team identity and values
To build team unity, you have to start by establishing your company's core values and identity. These principles are the foundation of your company and guide your people's behavior and decisions. When team members align on shared ideals, they're more likely to work toward creating a collaborative, inclusive work environment.
Start by establishing values that contribute to building unity—such as trust, kindness and respect, and open communication.
Here are some examples:
- Always be kind and respectful: On a highly collaborative team, it's important to be mindful of everyone’s time, personal perspectives, and bandwidth.
- Extreme ownership: When team members take the lead in embracing challenges and seeking solutions without waiting for explicit instructions. This helps keep everything moving along while reinforcing team trust.
- Open communication: Being transparent and open-minded creates an environment where people feel comfortable sharing ideas and questions. This improves teamwork and problem-solving.
- Radical candor: This means being truthful when giving feedback but finding the sweet spot between compassion and criticism. For example, if a team member is repeatedly failing to meet deadlines, you can be empathetic and try to understand their reasons while also firmly communicating the impact this is having on the team and their deliverables.
2. Create a sense of belonging
According to executive coach Tarah Keech: "It's important to ask leaders how much of a sense of belonging they feel first, because you can't create that culture when you feel like you don't belong. So, if you don't feel a sense of belonging, let's be curious about that. But if you do feel that belonging, you'll want to expand and amplify it for your team members."
Self-reflection will help you recognize how to involve everyone, including their specific skills and strengths, and keep them engaged. Then, you need to make people feel like they belong by giving them opportunities to get involved. For example, imagine you're leading a remote team of designers:
To make everyone feel like they belong and are valued members, you can organize regular virtual brainstorming sessions for upcoming design projects. During these sessions, you encourage each team member to contribute their ideas, no matter how big or small. This creates an inclusive environment where everyone's voice is heard and respected.
3. Eliminate silos and create opportunities to connect
According to a study by Airtable, 30% of employees' weeks are spent trying to find the right information and data. So, it's no wonder that 80% of workers view eliminating silos as crucial or high-priority.
A unified workforce needs a place they can all go to connect, share information, engage in spontaneous interactions, and facilitate cross-functional teamwork. Team collaboration tools like Switchboard give your people a shared source of truth in projects, meetings, and team interactions. Here's how:
Let's say you're organizing a design and creative review meeting. In Switchboard, you can organize persistent rooms by project, add all your files, browsers, and web apps in your meeting room, and come back to them whenever you need.
This way, everyone can collaborate side-by-side, async, or in real-time—letting you stay in perfect alignment with your team. And if someone misses the meeting, you can upload your meeting recording and notes right into your room, or invite them to a quick 1:1 sync and give them all the details.
4. Emphasize the benefits of cross-functional collaboration
Working across departments can improve your team's ability to tackle complex challenges from multiple angles. People working in jobs with high levels of collaboration report nearly a 30% increase in job satisfaction and are almost 20% less likely to experience burnout and leave their jobs.
So, here's how to emphasize the benefits of collaboration across functional teams:
- Share team wins. Using shared communication channels like Slack, showcase how collaborative projects drive innovation and positive outcomes by sharing important project results and accomplishments.
- Post testimonials in your newsletter. Have employees share their takeaways, like skills gained and friendships made, during cross-functional projects. This can help inspire more people to work together across the organization.
- Share key data. Get your team involved in the collaborative process by sharing important facts and figures as support. For example, you could share statistics outlining the benefits of teamwork, or an article centered around the importance of eliminating information silos.
5. Invest in communication skills
Effective communication facilitates the flow of information in any business, so you can tell if your team is unified based on how and when they communicate. Considering 42% of people suffer from burnout, stress, and fatigue as a result of communication issues in their business, it's crucial to get this right.
Tara Keech says the biggest thing that improves communication is “being clear about your own intentional outcome."
For example, a leader's intentional outcome for their project kickoff meeting might be to introduce a new product roadmap while fostering a collaborative and creative team dynamic. By communicating their intention, the leader sets a clear direction for the team, fosters alignment, and provides a sense of purpose and motivation for everyone involved.
In addition to being intentional, here are some other tips on investing in your team's communication skills:
- Establish clear communication guidelines. For example, codify your team’s preferred communication channels, response times, and communication expectations in a document. These guidelines create consistency and minimize misunderstandings.
- Host training workshops. Organize regular communication skills workshops, covering topics such as active listening, effective presentation, and conflict resolution. Bring in experts or use online resources to provide comprehensive training.
- Encourage a culture of constructive feedback. Encourage team members to offer two-way feedback and work on their ability to pinpoint improvements or express constructive criticism.
- Encourage peer learning. Have your team share their communication strategies and successes with each other. Peer learning provides diverse approaches and promotes a supportive environment.
6. Establish psychological safety
To move beyond the agreement stage and reach true team alignment, your people need to feel safe to question things as well as offer their opinion. Psychological safety is based on building trust in the workplace.
When people feel encouraged to speak their minds and play a real part in the team's success or failures, they're more likely to get on board and engage in the collaborative process. So, here's how you can establish psychological safety in your company:
- Practice mutual trust and respect. Unified teams need to build practical and emotional trust to stay aligned. That means having confidence that someone will fulfill their commitments, meet deadlines, and deliver on their promises while also feeling safe to express their feelings, opinions, and concerns without fear of judgment.
- Encourage active listening. Value and consider everyone's input during discussions and demonstrate that every voice is important and contributes to a culture of respect.
- Support asking questions. Create an environment where asking questions is encouraged and seen as a sign of curiosity.
- Set boundaries and respect them. This includes acknowledging team members' comfort levels in discussing personal matters and avoiding pushing them to share more than they're comfortable with.
- Regularly acknowledge and appreciate your team. Feeling valued can boost morale and create a deeper sense of purpose at work.
7. Involve people in decision-making
Involving your team in the decision-making process helps unify everyone around a common understanding and goal. This can lead to stronger outcomes, increased engagement, and a stronger sense of ownership. In fact, 38% of employees agree transparent leadership leads to more connected teams.
Here's how to involve your people when making decisions:
- Seek input. Ask team members for their thoughts, ideas, and suggestions related to the question or decision.
- Lead by example. Be vulnerable when asking your team for advice, and share personal or professional anecdotes that might inform your decision or lack thereof.
- Host collaborative brainstorming sessions. This way everyone can contribute ideas and add to an environment that encourages creativity and diverse viewpoints.
- Evaluate options together. Discuss different options or approaches and weigh their pros and cons as a team. Collective evaluation often leads to well-informed choices.
8. Create opportunities for shared learning
As mentioned earlier, information silos can lead to disconnected teams. While 55% of people say they have a good understanding of what others in their team are working on at any given time, it doesn't mean they get the same quality takeaways or insights.
So, you need to create opportunities where your team can freely contribute their knowledge and experiences—and fill any gaps in their shared understanding. Here's how:
- Sponsor webinars and online courses. Have your people attend relevant webinars or online courses and share their learnings with the team.
- Invite guest speakers. Including from different departments and industries to share their insights, experiences, and lessons learned.
- Host lunch and learn sessions. Organize regular informal sessions where team members share their expertise, experiences, or insights over lunch. This encourages learning in a relaxed and interactive setting.
- Host regular team meetings. Using a dedicated Switchboard room, encourage each team member to share a quick tip, an interesting article, or a recent success story. Then use Switchboard's AI feature to summarize your meeting notes quickly and keep new information top of mind.
9. Run team-building events and activities
One of the best ways to build team unity is to get everyone playing team-building games together. By having your people flex their problem-solving, communication, and collaboration skills, games can boost engagement and build camaraderie among teams.
Shared experiences also give people more to talk about, which increases spontaneity. And this is particularly needed considering only 24% of employees are scheduling spontaneous meetings, which doesn't quite scream unity.
Here are some examples of team building activities for communication and bonding:
- Office trivia. Create a game based on fun facts and the interests of team members to promote sharing and communication while having a lighthearted competition.
- One-word story. Each team member adds one word to a story, going around the circle. The goal is to create a coherent and often hilarious narrative, requiring active listening and quick thinking.
- Picture perfect. Teams are given different pieces of a larger image. They must communicate effectively to assemble the pieces correctly and reveal the complete picture.
- Icebreaker questions. People in a team are asked randomly generated or pre-selected questions and have to give their honest answers. This helps everyone get to know each other better and spark conversation based on shared experiences and interests.
Pro tip: Use Switchboard to make team interactions more dynamic by bringing your favorite virtual team-building games directly to your meetings. Or, use Switchboard's built-in icebreaker questions generator to keep the momentum going.
Building team unity: The key to peak performance
Whether you're climbing a mountain or managing a marketing campaign, unity isn't just a concept, but a tangible force that propels individuals to conquer challenges, reach new heights, and create lasting achievements together.
However, just because people are on the same team, in the same location, or working toward the same goal, that doesn't mean they're necessarily united. And a lack of unity can be harmful to performance, morale, and your bottom line.
That's why leaders of highly collaborative teams need to be intentional about creating team unity and learn how it contributes to a positive company culture.
For example, involving your people in decision-making, investing in communication skills, and eliminating silos are all steps you can take to improve team unity. And, when you add Switchboard to your toolkit, you get features like persistent rooms and the ability to share and work on files side-by-side—so there's no mountain too high.
Want to build a unified team?
Switchboard is a collaborative online workspace that lets you share anything from project files to virtual games with your team.
Frequently asked questions about how to build team unity
How do you build a team that works well together?
To build an effective team that works well together, it's important to:
- Establish shared team identity and values
- Create a sense of belonging
- Eliminate silos and create opportunities to connect
- Emphasize the benefits of cross-functional collaboration
- Invest in communication skills
- Establish psychological safety
- Involve people in decision-making
- Create opportunities for shared learning
- Run team-building events and activities
What are the benefits of having team unity?
There are several benefits to having team unity, including:
- More intentional leadership teams
- Increased creativity and innovation
- Higher employee morale and engagement
- Enhanced adaptability
- Informed decision-making
- Improved productivity