Throughout the tumultuous year of 2021, Etsy remained one of the world’s best performing and fastest-growing companies. While there are many reasons for its success, Etsy credits its emphasis on teamwork as the driving force for growth and employee satisfaction. Simply put, Etsy is a team-oriented company, which allows them to meet the challenges of the ever-changing business world.
At Etsy, the company is made up of squads of around ten people. Each squad has a specific problem to solve. They regularly meet up with the company’s leadership team to discuss their successes and failures. As such, the rewards for succeeding are high, while the cost of failure remains low.
This focus on teamwork extends to the company culture where employees connect outside of work. Workers enjoy each other’s company. They strengthen their bonds and help one another when they need it. They even have Etsy School, where employees have courses to teach new skills to their coworkers. These skills are often separate from work-related activities, like dancing or cooking.
Team-oriented companies like Etsy, Apple, Google, Disney, and more leave an enormous impact globally and feature highly successful teams. As business leaders invest in strategies that create a strong team culture, they lay the foundation for a company that can transform the world. But to do it, you must be intentional about it.
In this article, you’ll learn how to build a team-oriented business so you can:
- Raise performance levels
- Increase employee engagement
- Improve decision-making
- Scale with success
- And create a work culture people love
What is Team-Oriented Leadership?
Team-oriented leadership happens when a leader values the group of employees over individuals. This type of leadership promotes a “we” over “me” mentality. Any leader seeking to adopt team-oriented leadership needs to step into the group’s mindset and understand how their actions, thoughts, decisions, and leadership can affect others. Leaders who place a focus on the team must also encourage communication and collaboration between all team members.
Team-oriented leadership is a soft skill that requires great people management. Leaders should focus on creating an environment where people can connect, bond, and work as one. As whole companies adopt this mentality, they introduce more innovation and set themselves up to transform the world. Furthermore, they pick up an entrepreneurial spirit that spreads to all people on the team.
The Benefits of Being a Team-Oriented Leader
- Strong workplace culture: A workplace culture that prioritizes teamwork ensures all people feel included and valued.
- More flexible working conditions: With millennials and Gen Z workers becoming more dominant in the workplace, they prefer more flexible work arrangements. According to a survey from Zenefits, 77 percent of employees take flexible working conditions into consideration when evaluating jobs.
- Provides a network of support: Many employees don’t like to “go at it alone.” With a team-oriented culture, they know their coworkers have their backs. This can extend to when people have problems outside of work as well.
- Greater innovation: The stronger the team, the more willing team members will be to challenge and bounce ideas off of each other. This can lead to more innovation for the team and the company as a whole.
- Improved morale: Companies that focus on teams see improved morale and high worker satisfaction, which helps with employee retention. As Dawson Whitfield, CEO of Looka, explains, “[T]eamwork also gives employees a shared purpose . . . If people don’t feel connected to the purpose and culture of a company, they won’t stick around long—no matter how great your other benefits are.”
Top 6 Ways to Be a Team-Oriented Leader
1. Establish Trust
A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek has long been an advocate for the importance of trust among teams. As he describes from his work with the U.S. Navy SEALs, trust is the most important indicator of success for a team. Navy SEALs would rather have someone with medium or even low-performance standards and high trust than someone with high performance and low trust standards.
Leaders need to create workplace conditions that help in building trust. To do this, develop policies that protect employees and set expectations from the start of team orientation. By reinforcing your expectations, people can take comfort knowing they work in a protected place.
How to establish trust in the workplace:
- Define core beliefs and values: When people know what you and the company stand for, they won’t be caught off guard. Be upfront about your standards, and uphold them at all times.
- Be consistent: If you’re only there for someone some of the time, they’ll lose trust in you. Consistently show up and help out. Enforce the rules on everyone, not just on some people. Consistency gets rid of unpredictability, which damages trust.
- Be vulnerable: If you open up about yourself, people will trust you more. Part of being vulnerable includes admitting your weaknesses and the mistakes you have made. Doing so will encourage others to be open as well. In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown talks about the importance of showing vulnerability and states that asking questions can help show others you admit to not having all the information but want to know more.
- Listen: One of the most important and effective ways to establish trust is by listening to others. In this way, you will know when people have problems and how you can help. Practice active listening to be a better leader and show you care about your team members.
2. Foster Collaboration
The kinds of errors that cause plane crashes are invariably errors of teamwork and communication.Malcolm Gladwell
The best teams collaborate in all areas. They build off each other’s ideas, and as a result, they improve them and create something excellent. Team members who practice collaboration do much more than they could as individuals.
Innovation stems from collaboration. At many of the most successful companies in the world, such as Apple and Google, cross-functional, high-performing teams work together to create new products and services that change the world. Leaders who don’t foster collaboration will see their team’s creativity stagnate.
How to improve team collaboration:
- Start with the hiring process: When hiring employees, be on the lookout for people who possess collaboration skills and are eager to work with others. Those who want to be part of the team will be excellent team members.
- Practice strengths-based leadership: At the same time, bring in people who are the best at a specific open role. Make sure you fill in gaps that are lacking on your team. Having multiple people excel at the same thing creates redundancy and could lead to friction.
- Hold brainstorming sessions: This classic technique is still effective at bringing people together to compare ideas and challenge opinions in a friendly, non-confrontational way. Brainstorming puts everyone on the same page and helps point teams toward accomplishing their goals.
- Conduct team-building activities: Take the time to hold team-building activities. These activities bring teams closer together as they put their skills to work solving problems in a low-stress and fun environment.
3. Create a Communicative Environment
In teamwork, silence isn’t golden. It’s deadly.Mark Sanborn
Being a team-oriented leader means providing ample opportunities for people to connect. During those times, people should feel free to have honest, open conversations, which can build trust. It all starts with you as the leader setting the example.
To start the process, you must open up the lines of communication to yourself. If you close yourself off from others, your team members will become more reserved and harder to access. However, if you’re more open with your team, you set the example that they will most likely follow. It also gives you the chance to teach the rest of your team how to live outside of themselves and build relationships with others.
How to encourage more communication:
- Build cross-functional teams: The entire organization needs to communicate when you have cross-functional teams. Companies like Apple already do this. Leaders regularly check in on different teams, and every team knows what others are doing.
- Establish prime times for communicating: Set specific periods when communication will happen. This might occur during meetings, one-on-one interviews, or other functions. When people know ideal times to communicate, they’ll feel more comfortable doing it.
- Select consistent communication methods: Everyone should use the same platforms for communicating. Select a messaging platform all team members can use. If different teams use different platforms, narrow things down to one choice.
- Provide helpful feedback: When people communicate with you, let them know you heard and understand them. With valuable feedback, they’ll feel encouraged to continue opening up to you and others.
- Show recognition and appreciation: At the same time, recognize when others communicate well and praise them for it. Creating a positive feedback loop sets an example for others to follow.
4. Demonstrate and Teach Team-Oriented Leadership
As a leader, it’s a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behavior you want others to follow.Himanshu Bhatia
If you don’t emphasize a team-first culture, you can’t expect others to hold a team-first attitude. You need to set the tone and prioritize putting the team first at all times. Set a workplace standard that everyone should push a team-oriented mentality.
One way to demonstrate this is to practice servant leadership. Look at your team members not just as your coworkers but as human beings you can serve. Take the time to listen to their needs and help them in personal ways. Show them firsthand what selfless service looks like. Then they’ll be open to learning from you.
How to teach team-oriented leadership:
- Train regularly: Provide leadership training opportunities regularly. Start with a team orientation, then hold classes at least once a month to teach a principle of leadership focused on teamwork.
- Talk about teams weekly: Hold weekly meetings as well where for at least five minutes you talk about the importance of teams and discuss how all teams are getting along.
- Run a leadership book club: There are hundreds of books about leadership. Have a monthly book club where everyone reads the same book that you can then discuss as a team. Check out this list of leadership books or select one of the books from Michael Hyatt.
- Provide mentorship: For a more personal approach, you can become a mentor to a coworker. Meet with the individual weekly to discuss team-related goals and how they can improve as a team-oriented leader.
5. Advocate for Diversity and Inclusion
I’ve always said: smart teams will do amazing things, but truly diverse teams will do impossible things.Claudia Brind-Woody
More diversity means better performance and more success for teams. According to a McKinsey report, more diverse companies were 35 percent more likely to perform better than their average industry performance levels. But it’s not enough to simply have a diverse team—they need to feel comfortable and included.
Advocating for diversity also encapsulates the need to step out of the “me” mentality and into the “we” mindset. Leaders should create a sustainable environment where people of different backgrounds feel like they belong. While steps like diversity training can help, it must start with a willingness by leadership to adopt the belief that our differences can help us come together.
How to ensure teams are diverse:
- Look at all parts of diversity: When people think of diversity, they likely first think of gender, race, and ethnicity. While these are important, don’t overlook other aspects such as age and socio-economic background. A truly diverse team should include all of these differences as well.
- Be creative in hiring: When hiring for a new position, don’t use the same avenues you always do. Cast a wider net. Reach out to different places. Use different platforms. Going outside what you normally do will bring in more diverse recruits.
- Be an empathetic leader: Practice empathetic leadership to make sure all people feel included. Put yourself in their shoes and try to see things through their point of view. It won’t only make them feel more comfortable, it will help you become a better leader.
- Improve cross-cultural communication: When people from different backgrounds work together, communication can become muddled. Practicing cross-cultural communication helps you learn the best ways to communicate with a diverse group and ensures misunderstandings are kept to a minimum.
6. Use Technology to Your Advantage
There is nothing more important in a group remote project than casual communication. Not just official emails and work updates, but the ability to sit back and chat.David Rabin
At a time when remote work is more common, it can feel like a significant challenge to promote a team-oriented culture. When team members are physically distant, they can often feel disconnected from each other. This can lead to a lack of team spirit, even if everyone is working toward the same goal.
Technology provides the solution to this problem, but it may take some creative thinking. Make sure all team members are using the same platforms for messaging and virtual meetups. No one should feel out of the loop. It will take a concerted effort, but in time, the team will feel as close to each other as if they worked in the same office.
How to keep team-oriented behavior thriving:
- Schedule regular virtual meetups: Scheduling is more critical than ever in a remote working world. Plan regular meetings where everyone shows up and voices their thoughts and opinions.
- Hold brainstorming sessions: Being distant from each other doesn’t mean you can’t flex your creative muscles. Virtual brainstorming sessions bring everyone together to share ideas and form stronger bonds as a team.
- Provide job shadowing opportunities: Give team members the chance to job shadow each other. This allows them to get to know other team members better and gain a greater understanding of what role they play on the team.
Overcome the Challenges of Team-Oriented Leadership
Being a team-oriented leader doesn’t always happen easily. As you reach for this goal, you’ll encounter some significant challenges along the way. For example, team-oriented leadership requires more time and effort than other leadership styles. When you need to make a quick decision, relying on team input may take too long. To overcome this, try to be flexible when you need to take decisive action. Not every strategy should use a team-oriented approach.
You also need to be aware that some people may try to take advantage of those who favor a team-oriented environment. Such people can manipulate those who place other people’s needs above their own. Avoiding these types of personalities all starts with the hiring process. Look for A-players who fit into the culture you want to grow. Make sure everyone has a team-first attitude and is willing to pull their weight.
Understanding these challenges will help you create a team-oriented culture at your organization. To succeed, concentrate on the following steps right away.
- Outline your core values to your team members.
- Schedule a brainstorming session for next week for a project your team is working on.
- Select which communication platforms all team members should use.
- Practice empathy by getting to know your team members and what challenges they face.