Glue Your Team Together – Toolkit for better team spirit
Glue Your Team Together – Toolkit for better team spirit
A good team is obviously much more than just a group of professionals working together. Evolving into a team is a process in itself, yet it is not a straightforward project that will generate a world-class team just like that. In order to function properly and to become even better, the team needs a social glue that holds it together and helps the team members reach their goals and solve conflicts. This social glue is, of course, team spirit!
Team spirit is a very loosely defined and complex concept with various components. First of all, we should remind ourselves of the meaning of the word “team”.
Groups and Teams – What’s the Difference?
Teams consist of a small number of professionals whose skills complement each other and who strive towards a shared goal.
We often confuse teams with groups. The members of these “teams” get together once a month to report to their team leader on what they have been up to since the last meeting. Some of the team members cooperate with each other more or less actively, and some not at all. After a couple of hours and a few cups of coffee, the meeting is over, and everyone gets back to their desks. This kind of a team is actually just a group, or “a team as an administrative unit”: a group of professionals who have been put into the same loosely defined administrative box but who do not actively try to achieve the same goal.
A team, on the other hand, is a small group of professionals whose skills complement each other, who work together to reach the same goal while coordinating their tasks by themselves, and who are all responsible for the team’s work and results.
This fundamental difference has an impact on how you can create a good team spirit and maintain it.
Games Aside – Team Building Is an Everyday Thing
We can always organize a so-called team-building day if we can find the money for it. Sounds good, so let’s get on with it and team up! For groups, this might be a natural way to build team spirit: A few hours at an adventure park, climbing up trees and wrestling with ropes, and having dinner and going to the sauna together afterwards. This is very nice, of course, but it is not for everyone. Some find these team-building events forced and awkward, so they decide to not participate in them. I have been in situations where some people in the organization might go to great lengths to find a good excuse to skip the event.
It is good to remember, however, that the purpose of the team-building events is to genuinely help people find more energy to work and get to know their coworkers. However, these types of events simply are not suited for everyone and having a few events here and there does not lead to long-lasting positive effects. Before long, the shared experience and its positive effects will fade away.
Team spirit requires an active approach and regular work.
Team Spirit Toolkit
Below is a list of tools you can easily use to instantly build and improve team spirit.
Identifying the Team’s Purpose
Psychologists talk about low-level and high-level interpretations. In practice, this means that people can ask themselves if they see their work as something that is greater than themselves. For example, a software designer’s low-level interpretation of their tasks could be: “I write code”. A slightly higher-level interpretation could be: “I write code because I get paid for it”. The difference lies in finding a concrete reason for what you do. A high-level interpretation could be, for example: “I am creating this software to ensure that no one will have to be afraid of being scammed when shopping online”. In this last example, the software designer serves a higher purpose.
Why should we try to find a higher purpose for our work? Finding this purpose allows us to be infinitely more committed, active, happier, and motivated to do what we do. Eventually, this will also generate better results.
Ask your team(s) or teammates: what is your purpose? You can use the material provided at the end of this blog post to answer this question.
When the team is guided by their own moral compass, it is easier for the team members to stay on course together.
The organizational values form a kind of moral compass that guides us in our everyday lives. Every once in a while, people should ask themselves the following questions after a day at work: Did I follow the organization’s values today? What do these values mean to me? How can these values be seen in my work? These value-related questions should be brought up in teams as well. Teams can also create their own values. What are our team’s values? What is important to us? How do these values materialize in our team’s work? Answering these questions is a useful exercise for all teams.
It is useful to describe the values using concrete examples. For example: respect is an important value to all of us, but more importantly, we should ask what it means in practice. Does respect mean accepting other people’s views and differences? Does it mean that you should not roll your eyes or scoff at the craziest of ideas or “stupid questions” at meetings? Or does it simply mean saying “Good morning” to your coworkers?
When the team is guided by their own moral compass, it is easier for the team members to stay on course together. More importantly, the team should regularly reflect on its purpose and values. The team members should also ask themselves if they find the purpose and values important and how they can be seen in the team’s work. This subject should be discussed on a regular basis during retrospectives, for example. You can find a model for defining values here.
Get to Know Your Teammates
Trust is one of the most fundamental building blocks for good teams and team spirit. We must be able to collaborate efficiently, discuss problems and weaknesses, give and receive feedback, and focus not only on successes but also on failures. All of these things require trust. To trust each other, we should get to know our teammates outside the workplace as well. The Personal Map exercise is a simple and emotionally safe way to get to know your teammates. In this exercise, everyone creates a mind map to share something about themselves that they want the others to know. The person does not explain the map: others ask them questions about the things mentioned in the map, and the person can share as much as they want to. Things that have not been mentioned in the map should not be asked about.
See the Possibilities
Positive thinking does not mean that you should deny all problems and see the world through rose-colored glasses. Positive thinking is about seeing possibilities in challenging situations. Is failure a complete catastrophe or is it a valuable lesson? Positive thinking means adopting a constructive, solution-based and action-oriented approach to problems. People’s innate ability to think positively varies a lot, but fortunately, positive thinking can be developed and trained! The following methods can help boost positive thinking:
- Everyday thankfulness – at the end of the day, identify two or three things for which you feel grateful
- Stay active, work out
- Sleep and eat well
- Do your own thing!
You will notice that developing internal positivity and better team spirit will not require much more than this! Your team can also try to identify the things to which you tend to pay attention. Do you see more problems than opportunities? Do you focus on the negative or the positive? You can discuss these things in a retrospective session, for example. During retrospectives, you can also discuss what you have learned from failures and how you have overcome challenges, or you can even arrange a separate meeting for this discussion. This is an example of how you can approach challenges in a constructive, solution-based and action-oriented way.
A team needs an identity, and what would be a better way to bring people together than using a symbol!
A team needs an identity in order to have a great team spirit, and what would be a better way to bring people together than using a symbol! Design your own team logo, t-shirt, or patch. People love to wear their favorite band or sports team t-shirt. On some level, we can connect with strangers who wear the same symbols as we do. Why not use a team symbol to connect with each other?
Thank Your Friends
Do you give or receive praise for work well done? Is it just the supervisor’s job to reward employees? Hopefully you answered “yes” to the first question. As for the second question, I can answer for you: no, it isn’t. Gratefulness might be the poor man’s payment, but people still love to hear the words “thank you”. You should express gratitude publicly. This does not mean, however, that people should get on stage to be praised. Public expressions of gratitude can be a lot more subtle than that: for example, your team can have a “thank you wall” where everyone can write thank you notes to other team members whenever they want to.
These small gestures produce long-term benefits and improve motivation and team spirit. You can make an agreement that the team member who received the most thank you notes gets a small reward. The reward should be a small one, like a movie ticket. This way, the reward itself will be the side-product, not the goal. This method is one of the possibilities worth considering.
I have described some methods that help create team spirit. All in all, you should remember that good team spirit is vital to the team’s efficiency and functionality. You should take it seriously and get back to the subject every now and then, because soft values often produce hard results. In addition to these tips, you should get together and discuss what makes the team members feel better about themselves and start doing those things actively. You can, of course, organize team-building activities as well. Just make sure that they are not the only method!
Building and maintaining team spirit are among the most central tasks of the Scrum Master. We take this role seriously, as we should, which is why we have created a course targeted to Scrum Masters based on our ideas and long experience. Do you want to take your expertise to a whole new level? Whether you are just a beginner or a seasoned Scrum Master, you can learn more about our Scrum Master courses here. After that, you can take part in these courses and share your ideas with other Scrum Masters!
Product Development Consultant
Mikko is a long-term product development professional. He started his career as a software engineer, but found his vocation between agile and lean methods. Mikko has worked with both development teams and senior management, and has included the roles of coach, trainer and researcher. Mikko is one of the first to start a systematic research and development of agile methods in Finland. His free time Mikko spends with his family reading and working out. Cycling, in particular, is close to Mikko's heart.