Collaboration is often the bedrock of employee productivity. That’s why most organizations rely on good ol’ fashioned collaboration and cooperation to provide the best products and services. Even if you hear about big-name companies being the work of one person’s genius ideas, most groundbreaking products and services are team efforts. 

Of course, reaping the benefits of teamwork can be easier said than done. What if your team members don’t work well together? Personality conflicts, difficulties with the work provided, and turbulent interpersonal relationships can hamper an otherwise effective team. What’s more, these challenges’ effects may be hard to realize in the moment, and that makes them pretty difficult to control. The result is that achieving positive group dynamics can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill. Well, sometimes.

In other cases, good team dynamics are realistic if not constant. You can get there yourself with the below tips on how to improve team dynamics and keep productivity high.

6 steps to improve team dynamics

Improving team cohesion can be an in-depth, long-term process. After all, you’ll have a good handful of things to do. Finding the source of a group’s issues; eliminating them; improving them; the list goes on. Interpersonal problems can be challenging to resolve for new and veteran managers alike, but following the steps below should steer you in the right direction.

1 Find areas to improve

The first step to building positive team dynamics is identifying the factors causing friction within the group. Doing so isn’t always a simple prospect since there could be multiple causes, but you’ve got plenty of ways to better understand your team. 

Observing how team members interact is one method, and a good one at that. Watching without interfering gives you an unconcealed look at the current team dynamic. You could also hold one-on-one meetings with each team member to get additional perspectives on the group’s issues. 

Create room for discussion

Hear everyone out by giving space for all talking points. Use a meeting agenda to allow everyone to contribute their thoughts and opinions by using a tool like Fellow.

2 Solve problems when they arise

When you spot unacceptable behavior, work to correct it as quickly (and kindly) as possible. The longer interpersonal conflict is allowed to fester, the worse the relationship between those involved can get. Their work quality, of course, can decline in tandem. Try to encourage an open dialogue with your team members so they aren’t afraid to come to you with problems.

3 Create a team chart

Having a team chart helps organize your group into distinct roles with clearly defined responsibilities. This clarity can help minimize conflict. The overall objective is to avoid miscommunication, and you can also establish a set of guidelines for resolving issues as they arise.

4 Foster a meaningful company culture

Just as you shouldn’t allow conflicts between team members to linger, you should also encourage trust and support. Team members who feel certain they’re working with a group of like-minded peers toward a shared goal can help create a more collaborative workplace. To start forging these bonds, you could use team-building games and encourage team members to share ideas without fear of repercussion.

5 Encourage communication

Having a voice in key decisions can help your team feel like its contributions are valued. Keep everyone abreast of any significant changes to their projects so they feel included and able to voice concerns. And don’t be afraid to ask for the input of your quieter members – maybe they have thoughts to share but feel afraid. When you give them space to be heard, they’re more likely to feel like part of the group.

6 Keep observing your team’s dynamic

Even after you’ve managed to create a positive team dynamic, your work isn’t quite finished. It’s possible for a team member’s behavior to shift and conflicts to arise practically overnight. Addressing minor issues before they become big ones is key to maintaining your team’s cohesion and maximizing your productivity.

Why do team dynamics matter?

The answer to this question is as simple as you think it is. Teams with positive dynamics function like clockwork, as each member can fearlessly, continuously build on their strengths and improve on their weaknesses. The result is a better slate of company products and services – where would your offerings be without the people powering them? 

Conversely, a team with a negative dynamic will produce not-as-stellar results. That’s because personal differences can create fear and resentment rather than support.  Neither of these emotions feels comfortable, and the second-guessing associated with discomfort is antithetical to good work. 

What factors contribute to team dynamics?

If you’ve carefully vetted your employees, chances are most of them want to perform their best at work. However, poor communication, hostile interactions, and excess negative feedback can sap even the most engaged employees’ motivation. If that sounds a bit challenging, fret not: It’s entirely possible to work on the group’s issues during team development. 

The trick is recognizing where the source of the problem lies. Some possible sources of the issues underlying poor team dynamics are below. 

1 Communication

You’d be surprised how quickly some problems get resolved when your team actually talks about them. Poor communication is a brick wall to successful, exciting work, whereas open communication is an open door to a team – and output – that shines. Without communication, collaboration literally can’t exist. How can your team achieve its goals if leadership, management, and everyone else are inaccessible? 

2 Empowerment

Employees often know their roles better than management, so when you trust them to make decisions, better work can result. It can even result in game-changing ways you never would’ve thought of yourself! That’s why giving your team a certain degree of autonomy is great for improving team dynamics. This autonomy can encourage your team to get creative and take a personal interest in the project’s success. You’ll also see your team less afraid of sharing concerns and issues – and doing all around better work. 

3 Clear roles and responsibilities

A clear division of responsibilities among team members helps keep tensions low amid work processes. You should define and communicate roles before a project starts to promote accountability and focus your team members where their skills are most needed. 

4 Clear goals

One thing you want to avoid while working with your team is a misunderstanding of the group’s overall goal. Disagreement on a project’s objectives can bring the entire process to a crawl as group members try to pull it in several directions. Making sure that everyone’s on the same page at the start of the project is basically a form of proactive conflict resolution. You won’t have to gather the team to solve arguments about a project’s direction if the direction is clear from the start. 

5 Effective leadership

One of the most influential factors behind team dynamics is the person in the lead. A good leader provides clear guidance and resources while giving the group enough distance and flexibility that team members trust leadership and one another. Note that being a good leader doesn’t mean micromanaging the project. Instead, you should take a step back and direct your team just enough to bring out their best.

6 Reward and accountability systems

Success as well as failure can be equally common in the workplace. It’s knowing how to respond to them that helps maintain a productive job environment. Typically, when an employee’s achievements are rewarded, they’re more likely to feel invested in future work since their contributions are clearly valued. Likewise, employees are more likely to perform at their best when they know how poor results affect the company. 

Similar principles apply in a group context as well. Encouraging your team’s best performance usually involves helping every member understand the importance of their goal. Holding each person accountable for setbacks and rewarding the group for achievements encourages everyone to cooperate and do their best work.  

What causes poor team dynamics?

You now have many of the building blocks you need to establish positive team dynamics. That’s a  great starting point, and you should couple it with learning the factors behind poor dynamics. After all, how can you avoid something without knowing what causes it? Below are a few common causes of interpersonal conflicts.  

1 Weak leadership

A good leader helps focus and guide their team so every member produces their best work. Conversely, ineffective leadership can leave a group lacking in direction and unable to make any progress.

2 Blocking

This term describes any actions that disrupt the flow of information or any team member’s performance. It can describe something aggressive like workplace bullying or something seemingly harmless like excessive joking.

3 No open communication

When team members feel like they can’t voice their opinions, they’ll likely continue to stay mum even when there’s a clear problem. If you’re continually running into issues a team member should have caught, it’s possible they did catch these problems and felt afraid to say so. To combat this issue, demonstrate an acceptance of constructive criticism

4 Groupthink

A good leader generally guides rather than commands. If you find that your team members usually follow your lead, try opening the floor to their ideas and opinions. 

5 Freeriding

Although teams with a positive dynamic cover for each other’s weaknesses, that mentally shouldn’t go as far as doing someone else’s work. If a team member isn’t pulling their weight, it’s up to the team leader to get them to do so. This way, the rest of the team can focus on solely their own tasks. One-on-one meetings are a great way to guide the slacking employee, and team meetings can be great for discussing any key changes.

Propel your team to greatness

A team’s dynamics can make or break its effectiveness. Mitigating the factors that can degrade interpersonal relationships is key to maintaining positive group cohesion and producing high-quality work. Communication is a critical component in this effort, and Fellow can help you create a workplace environment that supports collaboration. With practical tools for before, during, and after all types of meetings, you’ll have everything you need to keep your team’s dynamic consistently positive.