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16 teamwork leadership skills to inspire collaboration
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16 teamwork leadership skills to inspire collaboration

Learn how developing your team into leaders can improve teamwork—and the skills managers and individuals need to be better team players.

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Picture this: a group of young Cub Scouts eagerly embarking on their wilderness adventures. In the eyes of these budding leaders, every hike through the woods, every campfire cooking session, and every knot-tying challenge isn't just an outdoor escapade—it's a lesson in leadership waiting to be learned.

A young Cub Scout leader inspires other scouts to be leaders through teamwork, camaraderie, and bravery. In the same way, great business managers can also nurture the leader within individuals on their team, and improve their ability to work together. 

Strong leadership inspires a sense of trust and belonging among team members, which results in better teamwork. But you don’t need to be a manager to be a great leader—in fact, leadership skills like problem-solving and relationship-building can make anyone a better team player. 

Leaders of highly collaborative teams need to learn and practice leadership skills. They also need to empower their team members to practice those skills. 

In this piece, you'll learn key leadership skills for managers as well as teamwork and leadership skills you can teach to benefit the entire team. We'll also dive into how a visual collaboration platform like Switchboard can help strengthen these skills, and make teamwork the best part of work. 

Want a team of leaders who love working together? 
Switchboard lets you bring out the leader in everyone by creating a space where people can learn to collaborate and develop skills.  
Learn more

Leadership skills for team managers

Cub Scout leaders keep earning badges to sharpen their survival and leadership skills. In a similar way, strong managers should always be honing their leadership skills to improve and work better with their team. 

Below, we dive into the top leadership skills for team managers, so you can keep people engaged and motivated to be team players. 

1. Communicating clearly

"When your team has clarity, they feel psychologically safe and can perform at their best," says executive career coach Tarah Keech. This means you need to have communication guidelines and expectations in place so everyone knows where and how to communicate, and how often.

Keech also explains that a lack of trust often comes from a lack of clarity or clear communication, "bringing a lack of predictability about what people can expect will happen next with their team or with themselves and their own role." This can make people feel unstable in the company and less engaged with their team. Communicating clearly can bring people together and help keep everyone on track.

To communicate effectively, make sure you practice active listening. This means fully concentrating on a speaker. The aim is to understand their message, foster open communication, and build rapport. If in doubt, over communicate. But stick to the communication channels outlined in your communication guidelines. 

2. Having empathy

Empathetic leadership inspires positive change in the workplace, increases mutual respect between employees and leaders, and improves productivity. Since leaders are also typically responsible for setting the tone for the team and company culture, having empathy also improves employee retention

Remember that empathy starts with being empathetic and kind to yourself. Acknowledge your own feelings and treat yourself with the same compassion you extend to others. Be sure to also put yourself in other people's shoes and let them know you understand and care about their feelings. Don't forget about active listening, either. Use phrases like "That must have been very difficult for you" or "I'm here for you if you want to talk."

Then make a conscious effort to practice empathy in your daily interactions. This could be with family members, coworkers, or even strangers you encounter throughout the day.

3. Learning to delegate and trust 

Part of creating a culture built on teamwork is learning how to trust your team to do their jobs. This means learning how to delegate work and avoiding micromanaging your people. 

Something to keep in mind is to delegate authority, not just tasks. You want to empower your team members to make decisions within their delegated responsibilities. Practice being hands-off and allowing people to work independently and take decisions. This will help you learn to trust their judgment and avoid micromanaging.  

4. Building a sense of belonging 

“​​You can't create belonging when you feel like you don't belong.” says Keech. This means that you need to work on this before you can build a sense of belonging on your team.  

"If you do feel [like you belong] and you want to amplify it for your team members, make sure that your thoughts are, to use a coaching term, ‘clean’ about that particular employee. Do you feel like they belong? Do you feel like they understand their value? Do you feel like they understand how they see themselves in the larger organization?”  - Tarah Keech, executive career coach. 

Doing this helps you understand how to include your team and create a welcoming environment. Then, based on your findings, create opportunities for active participation and involvement. Encourage everyone to contribute their ideas, feedback, and talents.

Pro tip: Switchboard is your single source of truth where everyone can find who and what they're looking for: Be it a project file, meeting recording, or spontaneous interaction. This makes it easy to build a sense of belonging and always feel at home in your work.
Persistent room in Switchboard during a meeting, displaying design review files
In Switchboard, you can jump into a spontaneous 1:1 chat, join a collaborative brainstorming session, or go into your project room for solo focus work—and find where you belong. Source: Switchboard

5. Understanding your team’s personality types

Being aware of the nuances of your team, including understanding different personalities and ways of working, can contribute to more resilient teams that perform better.

By recognizing and appreciating the diverse personality traits within your team, you can leverage their strengths, address potential conflicts, and create a more harmonious work environment. 

You can do this by engaging in team-building activities and administering personality assessments like DISC, 16 Types, or Big 5 (OCEAN). Once you understand your personality types and strengths, it's important to adjust communication styles based on individual preferences. For example, some may prefer direct and concise communication, while others may appreciate more detailed explanations. 

Since teamwork improves productivity, you need to make sure everyone feels safe to contribute. This can also help you tailor team-building activities and meetings to different people: Introverted team members may prefer smaller, more focused activities, while extroverts may thrive in larger, social gatherings. Knowing what people like and respond to can help drive team trust, as well as a willingness to collaborate. 

6. Being available while setting boundaries

Making it known you’re available to offer help when needed can instill confidence in people’s members’ ability to make decisions and be better team members. 

That said, keep boundaries clear on when you expect your team to make judgment calls on their own, and when to ask team members for support. Also, demonstrate your commitment to work-life balance by sticking to the boundaries you set. For instance, don’t log on to Slack while you’re on vacation, which helps encourage your team members to do the same.

7. Coaching and mentoring

Leaders can enhance their coaching and mentoring skills by seeking out mentorship themselves and learning from experienced coaches. 

You can also actively engage in developing your team members' skills by providing constructive feedback, offering learning opportunities, and creating a culture of continuous growth.

8. Storytelling

Use storytelling to make training and daily work more engaging. According to Keech, “Humans are wired to learn from stories which are shared by other humans.” 

For example, imagine you're leading a product development team tasked with creating a new mobile app for travelers. Instead of just presenting a list of features and tasks, you can use storytelling to engage and inspire your team. For example, by telling the story of a user stuck in a busy airport, stressed out, and desperately looking for a way to make their travel experience smoother.” You can go on to introduce characters in the story, their pain points, and frustrations, like long security lines, confusing flight information, and feeling disconnected from their loved ones during travel.

By using storytelling in this way, you not only make the work more engaging but also provide a clear sense of purpose and motivation. Your team members can become emotionally invested in the project, inspired by the chance to come up with a solution that will make travelers' lives better.

9. Visionary thinking

The ability to think strategically, envision future possibilities, and set clear goals and objectives for the team or organization helps rally everyone behind a shared purpose. 

You can cultivate visionary thinking by regularly setting aside time for reflection and strategic planning. Your team can also study industry trends, explore emerging technologies, and engage in foresight exercises to expand their thinking and develop a clear vision for the future. Then, get everyone together in your persistent Switchboard room to visually display and share information. This will help inspire people and bring ideas to life. 

10. Decision-making

To improve decision-making skills, you can practice making decisions based on available information and analyzing the potential outcomes. You can also seek diverse perspectives, consult with experts, and learn from past experiences to make more informed choices.

Along the way, you should involve people in meetings and discussions to help you reach informed decisions. When you’re using Switchboard, you can get all those cross-functional roles together in one room and open up all the apps, documents, and files they need to share with you.

Teamwork and leadership skills that can benefit your team 

Research shows that teams are more effective than individuals at solving complex or difficult tasks. By empowering your people with the leadership skills to take charge of their output and progress, you can also improve your ability to work together as a team. 

Here are teamwork and leadership skills you can use to improve team performance and dynamics.  

1. Taking responsibility

Leaders can foster accountability by setting clear goals and expectations, regularly monitoring progress, and providing constructive feedback. They can lead by example and hold themselves accountable for their actions and decisions, creating a culture where everyone takes ownership of their responsibilities.

Task prioritization is also a vital skill. When you prioritize effectively, your team can take ownership of their work and work more efficiently, which helps foster accountability – to each other and themselves. 

2. Building strong working relationships

Strong teams are built on trust: If you find yourself lacking trust in your leadership skills or team, start by addressing the risks, hesitancy, or insecurities that it might be coming from. 

"If you don't trust your employees to get [something] done to your standards or on time, how can you help that employee understand your expectations? [And how can you] ensure that they understand it, confirm that they understand it, and then give them the tools they need?" Tarah Keech, executive career coach. 

Teams can work better together and take risks in a smart way if they trust each other. To build trust, and stronger working relationships, team-building games like virtual scavenger hunts or trivia quizzes are a great way to get people talking and forming connections. You can also create opportunities for cross-functional teamwork by involving more teams in upcoming projects or company-wide challenges.

Pro tip: Use Switchboard to set up a persistent room for team-building exercises and games. In your dedicated room, you can add browser-based virtual engagement games like virtual escape rooms, or use Switchboard's icebreaker question app. This helps build trust by sharing more experiences with your team members and getting to know each other better.
Setting up a virtual games room in Switchboard
Connect with your team in Switchboard by playing your favorite games, and build stronger working relationships. Source: Switchboard

3. Asking the right questions

Teams need to be empowered to find the information they need. This includes making sure everyone feels comfortable asking questions, asking the right questions, and asking them of the right people.  

As a leader, it's important to emphasize that asking questions is a sign of curiosity, critical thinking, and a desire to learn and improve. Start by encouraging team members to research and prepare questions in advance of meetings or discussions to ensure they address key points and concerns effectively.

Then, teach your team to ask clarifying questions when they encounter information or instructions that are unclear. But make sure active listening comes before asking questions. Your people should listen attentively to others' perspectives and concerns to ask relevant and thoughtful questions.

4. Problem solving

Studies show that people with problem-solving skills are more likely to think analytically and creatively. They also trust their ability to make decisions and overcome challenges at work. 

You can develop problem-solving skills individually and as a team by actively engaging in problem-solving exercises. These can include role play scenarios, jigsaw puzzle challenges, or riddles and logic puzzles. Encourage team members to contribute ideas and brainstorm solutions collaboratively, fostering a creative problem-solving environment.

To do this, you need to give your team the right tools. Team collaboration tools like Switchboard let you organize all the apps and tools you use into meeting and project rooms—and make everything instantly multiplayer. This means you can work on problem-solving exercises side-by-side, which can improve trust and the quality of your working relationships. 

Switchboard persistent room with documents, browser-based apps, and tools
Switchboard makes it easy to put your heads and files together and think of solutions side-by-side. Source: Switchboard

5. Being adaptable 

Leaders can foster adaptability by embracing change themselves and encouraging their team members to do the same. 

For example, to better accommodate your growing team, you might decide to change your project management workflow to make better use of resources and allow you to get more done. You can embrace this change by openly communicating about it with your team, encouraging them to ask questions and come up with solutions. 

You can also seek new challenges, take on different roles, and encourage experimentation and learning from failures to build resilience and adaptability.

6. Resolving conflicts

Effective conflict resolution can help create more unified teams that know how to handle obstacles and overcome them, together. 

Team members can develop conflict resolution skills by actively seeking to understand different perspectives and engaging in open and respectful dialogue. They can practice finding common ground, focusing on shared goals, and exploring win-win solutions to resolve conflicts.

Teamwork leadership skills: Enable the leader in everyone 

The Cub Scouts remind us that leadership is not confined to titles; it's a collective effort that thrives when everyone plays their part in promoting unity and achieving shared goals. And the same can be said for business leaders and teams. 

Great leadership inspires a sense of belonging and trust among your team, which results in better collaboration. But you don’t need to be a manager to be a great leader—in fact, learning leadership skills can make anyone a better team player. Leaders of highly collaborative teams need to learn and practice leadership skills—and enable their team members to practice them too.

Managers can focus on skills like empathy, coaching, mentoring, and taking responsibility to improve teamwork. It’s also important to help your teams learn problem solving, conflict resolution, and building strong working relationships.

When you empower your team with Switchboard, you get a multiplayer experience where everyone can take the lead in moving meetings and projects forward—and be better team players. 

Want a team of leaders who love working together? 
Switchboard lets you bring out the leader in everyone by creating a space where people can learn to collaborate and develop skills.  
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about teamwork leadership skills

Why is teamwork a good leadership skill?

Teamwork is a good leadership skill because to be an effective leader you need to know how to work with a range of people: including their skills, perspectives, and personalities. This means having a leadership style that prioritizes communication skills, emotional intelligence, and delegating tasks.

What are the benefits of being a team leader?

There are many benefits to being a team leader, the most important one being leading a group of people toward a common goal and using effective teamwork to make it happen. 

Where can you learn more about teamwork skills?

Effective leadership will help their team improve their leadership skills, including their decision-making process, management skills, and workflows. This means providing the right tools and resources to build their skill sets and experience what it means to be a great team.

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Want a team of leaders who love working together?

Switchboard lets you bring out the leader in everyone by creating a space where people can learn to collaborate and develop skills.