Fact: you need teamwork. In order for any organization (a place of business, your family, a charity, etc.) to run successfully, its members need to understand the concept of effective teamwork.

And therein appears the essential word: effective. It’s one thing to say you are running a team, but it’s quite another to run that team effectively. Here are a few ways to make sure your team is truly living up to its potential.

1.) Have clearly defined goals. In order to get the most out of your team, you need to have a clearly defined goal that you are working toward as a group. In addition, it’s important to be specific. “Increase efficiency” sounds good, but it’s a horrible goal because it could mean anything. “Increase the amount work orders processed between 3:00 and 5:00 pm” on the other hand, lets everyone know exactly what they are working toward and what will be considered a success. If they found a way to increase the amount of work orders processed between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning, for example, it would be increasing efficiency, but not in the specific way you might want it to be increased. 

2.) Break up the work. Delegating one specific task to one person and another specific task to another person lessons the burden of the problem. It takes a huge, intimidating obstacle and turns it into many small, manageable obstacles. Plus, it gives each person a part of the solution that they can be accountable for.

3.) Hold frequent meetings to review progress. If a specific person is unaware of the progress being made by other members of the group, they can start to feel like they are doing all the work, even though they are still in charge of a single component. Having meetings to discuss progress gives team members a chance to see the progress of the issue as a whole. 

Furthermore, frequent meetings allows the team to see what is working and what is not, and provides a chance for people to offer valuable input. 

4.) Do the little things. Like any job, working on one thing for a long period of time can be grueling, so try to lighten the mood occasionally. Think you aren’t there to bring your employees donuts and juice when they should be happy they simply have a job? Fair enough, but this isn’t an article about how to spoil your employees, it’s an article about how to get the most out of your team. Little things go a long way, so suck it up and bring in some muffins once in a while. 

5.) Celebrate successes publicly. Did your team accomplish the goal? Let everyone know! Announce it in the company newsletter and list the team members that made it possible. Have a company celebratory pot luck and let participating team members wear matching T-shirts to stand out. When the team gets to take credit for the solution, it makes them more eager to solve other problems, and when team members are publicly praised for their work, it makes other members of the company eager to participate in solving the next company issue. 

 
 
I’m sure we’ve all heard plenty of inspirational quotes, and we’ve probably got a short list of a few that we consider seriously significant. But every once in a while (read: now, while you’re reading this article for the first time), a collection of quotes comes along that is more than just quirky banter. These quotes are keepers; meaning they are actually much more useful when applied to your daily lives than when applied to paper.

1.) "It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin

As important as this quote is, its principal may be one of the most overlooked. Working together is essential for progress. Businesses aren’t run by a single individual; they’re run as a team, and the most successful businesses are due to successful collaboration within that team. The more ideas you have floating around, the more options you have to choose from.

2.) "Politeness is the poison of collaboration." - Edwin Land

Collaboration require honesty, and politeness is often a nice way of being dishonest. If you don’t like an idea, speak up, and explain your reasoning. The more you hold things in, the more you are robbing the group of useful feedback.

3.) "The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other." - Thomas Stallkamp
It can be easy to move focus of a meeting to the individuals instead of a problem itself. It doesn’t matter who says what idea, or who has the biggest problem with a specific policy; if it’s one person’s problem it’s everyone’s problem.

4.) "We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some are bright, some have weird names, but we have to learn to live in the same box." - Anonymous

You do not always get to choose the people you will be collaborating with, but you still must learn to work together as a team. But don’t look at it in a bad way; for all you know that annoyingly bright crayon that sits in the office across from you could have some fantastic ideas.

5.) "Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." - Ryunosuke Satoro

Think of this as a pointillism painting with each individual, uniquely different dot representing a part of the picture. The picture itself wouldn’t come together without all the individual dots. The reason there is a picture at all is because of a very specific combination of different point of color.

6.) "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller

In addition to the previous quote, just think of all the things we can do better together! One person protesting on the street looks like a crazy person, but 50 or 100 or 1000 people protesting the exact same thing in the same place creates a sense of organization and purpose. It’s the reason petitions and boycotts so often see results. Working together gets a message across.

7.) "Few things in life are less efficient than a group of people trying to write a sentence. The advantage of this method is that you end up with something for which you will not be personally blamed." - Scott Adams

People need ownership. They need to be able to tackle something with a sense of responsibility. Delegation is incredibly important when collaborating. Instead of assigning one large task to a group, consider breaking it up into smaller tasks that will be assigned to the individuals in the group.

8.) "Gettin' good players is easy. Gettin' 'em to play together is the hard part." - Casey Stengel

Sometimes a team’s chemistry is more important than the actual skills of the team members. Since this quote is in reference to baseball, I’m going to stay on that topic. The teams that make it to the post-season are not always the teams with the best players, they’re the teams that have figured out how to win with what they got. There is no room for egos in collaboration.

9.) "The purpose of life is to collaborate for a common cause; the problem is nobody seems to know what it is." - Gerhard Gschwandtner

Before the task of collaborating can even begin, it’s important to have a common goal in mind. Without it, everyone is going to be running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off! Identify the task everyone needs to be working towards, delegate, and begin problem solving. 

 
 
We all want to live up to our full potential, but as the saying goes, “The path to success is often under construction.” And it’s true; our path to reach our goals is most definitely going to be strewn with obstacles that we are going to have to overcome. We know this. We’re ready for this. But what happens when the obstacles begin multiplying? And we are the cause of it?

Believe it or not, many of your hindrances may be due to your own behavior or habits. So before we start stressing over how we are going to solve the problems that are already there, let’s take a look at three things that might be creating new ones right under your nose.

1.) You don’t plan. Not everyone is a planner, and often what we do plan tends to be what we enjoy. Personally, I love to cook, so planning meals for the week is a way of relaxing. Planning my workouts for the week, however, is a different story altogether.

The fact is you have to plan. Planning gives you a chance to see what obstacles might come your way, giving you time to think of possible solutions now, while you’re calm and clear-headed. It also gives you the opportunity to break a larger goal into smaller goals, lessening the weight of the overall task at hand. And if you don’t even know where to start, consider Canvas Creek. Strategic planning is one of the things we specialize in!

2.) You don’t make decisions. Making a decision sounds easy enough, but the truth is it can be downright paralyzing. The error many people make is seeing the two options in terms of “right and wrong” or “good and bad”. This creates difficulty because, most likely, there isn’t a bad decision, the two are just different. Instead, think of it as two positives. One option may be better than the other, but they are both possible solutions, and neither one is going to be perfect.

For example, if two roads lead to the same place, and one road has a pothole, does it really matter which road you take? Sure if you take the pothole road you might take a little longer, but is the difference in time really going to matter in the end? Probably not. Make a decision, stick to it and move on.

3.) You don’t delegate. Being able to delegate is essential. You can’t possible do everything (okay maybe you can, but you’re going to run yourself ragged), so you have learn how to lighten the load a little bit.

Take this as an example: one of the best rules in business is to surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses. Let’s take a look at a baseball coach. Maybe he is extremely skilled at teaching hitting mechanics but has a weak spot when it comes to teaching pitching mechanics; that’s why he would hire a pitching coach. It’s not because he isn’t knowledgeable about pitching, there is just someone else out there that is more knowledgeable, and delegating the pitching workouts to someone else frees up more time for him to work with the hitters. In the end, everyone benefits from having a pitching coach as part of the staff.