Scheduled for a flight to Hawaii to start our holiday, we knew things weren’t going to be easy when the snowstorm is our area was making news right around the globe.

Whether it’s in marriage, in business or at the desk of the airport, it’s times like these as leaders we need ways to encourage teamwork to make the situation as smooth as possible.

That wasn’t the case at the airport on this day, where the entire ground staff made a challenging situation worse.

The storm caused our original flight to get delayed, so we needed to re-route the flight through another city. But the gate agents were so frazzled and arguing amongst themselves that by the time they actually started trying to re-route us we’d missed all opportunities. We ended up having to leave the following day. 

This team was dysfunctional to say the least. Yelling at each other, kicking one another off of computers, threatening to call management on each other… and they weren’t particularly  nice to us either. It was as if it was our fault there was a storm and they had to work a little harder. 

As a leadership coach I honestly felt like going behind the counter and taking charge! We ended up leaving the following morning on the same airline. And they weren’t much nicer that day either. 

On the way back, we had a completely different experience at another airport. Staff who worked as a team, with respect and professionalism for each other and passengers. They’d clearly had strong leadership and worked on ways to encourage teamwork.

As you know in business, the leadership style of the captain of the ship (or airline in this case) trickles right down to the person who cleans the toilets.

That style impacts the motivation for staff to work as a team, which in a crisis situation is vital. No one wants to see a staff member publicly bickering with another.

Without teamwork, we’re not efficient at our jobs.

How efficient are your team members in extreme conditions?

Here are 5 steps to create more effective teamwork so what is going on internally is also reflected externally to ensure your business or department is putting its best foot forward.

1 What is your vision and mission?

It’s important each team member is working towards the same goal. When everyone has their own agenda, things fall down. 

As a leader, you also need to demonstrate leadership by clearly articulating the business’ or department’s vision and mission so that others understand it. Your vision helps people see WHERE you’re going as a team. The mission helps them see what needs to be done to get there.

There may well have been a vision and mission on the first airport, but the question is whether the staff even knew about it or whether the leader had inspired them to want to follow it.

An important reminder though about being a “leader”. A key trait is the ability to listen to what others say and ensure everyone agrees with the direction being presented. If not, how can this be tweaked to ensure it’s realistic for all?

In a crisis situation, your vision and mission needs to allow for staff to do their job well.

2 Develop and foster open lines of communication

When you foster a space for people to communicate with you and one another, then there is more opportunity for people to collaborate when faced with challenges. 

Staff need to understand they’re welcome to communicate their thoughts, opinions and ideas openly, as long as they’re clear about how to do it in a respectful and positive manner.

This leads to a healthy group culture.

The staff at the second airport were respectful of each other and passengers. If you want people to learn to trust each other, you need to ensure they’re also respecting each other. And that starts from the top.

Are you respecting your staff? Are you being professional in all your interactions with others?

You may not think too much about your word choices or the tone you use with others, but other people are taking those things on board (pardon the pun). And, to be frank, they are “taking them onboard” the plane as well, and repeating what you’ve modelled is acceptable behavior.

3 Clarify roles, responsibilities and accountabilities

To be able to work as a cohesive group, it’s important for each person to understand what their roles are, their responsibilities and what you’ll be holding them accountable to. 

It was clear this was lacking as we stood at the airport mid snowstorm listening to staff arguing with each other about what to do.

When everyone understands where they stand, it creates greater harmony within the group and achieves success for the business or department. And not just in a crisis situation, but every day.

That also applies to you as the leader too. What are your roles and responsibilities? And who’s keeping you accountable? Having a coach or accountability partner who can provide an outside perspective can do a lot in helping you grow as a leader.

The lack of leadership at the airport that day was evident to all.

4 Reward teamwork

No, we’re not in kindergarten anymore, but it’s important employees are rewarded for their contribution. Once you’ve clarified roles and responsibilities, it’s easier to assess someone’s performance.

But how do you reward someone?

Each person is different and so you, as a leader, need to determine what lights someone up. In the book The Five Love Languages, author Gary Chapman talks about how each of us not only expresses our appreciation for others in different ways, but we all like to receive praise in different ways.

One person might prefer words of affirmation, while another loves gifts. Some prefer your time to simply sit and listen, while another feels truly appreciated when you physically pat them on the back.

Get to know your people, so you can find ways to reward them to, in turn, ensure they stay motivated to follow the vision and mission you set out in the very beginning.

When their back is against a wall and they have to make quick, difficult decisions, they’ll remember what it is you value about them and will be much more inclined to want to do their best.

5 Celebrate differences

Just as we all like to be rewarded in different ways, we each have a different way we like to communicate and work.

One thing with the second airport experience was the staff genuinely liked being around each other. Maybe they didn’t agree with each other fully, but they respected that each person was different.

I’m sure by now someone has had you do a personality test or two. And there are plenty out there – Myer Briggs, DiSC, REACH etc. 

The thing is, once you understand how each of your staff tick, it can help you better communicate with team members and get the most out their skills and talents. You’ll find they also enjoy what they’re doing more, because they feel fully understood and are playing to their strengths.

This then flows onto the staff understanding each others’ differences.

Sure, Jenny might be a little more direct in her approach, but that’s how Jenny gets things done so all passengers board the right plane at the right time. And John, well, he’s a bit quieter but when you can find one on one time with John he’s got a lot of value he can share from that analytical mind of his to improve the department next time a snowstorm hits.

When we understand people, we communicate better and create harmony.

Which of these ways to encourage teamwork will you use?

Work WITH your team, not against them and they’ll be encouraged to work in harmony together too. You’ll find that when passengers board YOUR airline to experience your business, they’ll feel the culture of CARE you’ve created and it will drive them to want to keep coming back.

For me, that other airline won’t be seeing my business for a while (unless they want some leadership help, of course!)

Which of these ways to encourage teamwork will you start with?

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Cynthia Corsetti is an Executive Coach and Speaker. If you’d like to learn more on how her C.A.R.E. to Engage system can help you create an engaged workforce in your organization, you can email her at: cynthia@cynthiacorsetti.comPS..I’m an open networker and I love to connect. Please join me over on LinkedIn and FB so we can take this journey together!