Medicine is a team sport—the collective is often much greater than the individual when it comes to patient care, innovative ideas, productivity, and efficiencies. Even more important is that effective teamwork leads to fewer medical errors.
Bearing in mind that not all teams are created equal, below are some strategies worth considering to get the most from your team.
1 Develop a team mission.
When people all agree on a common purpose and feel that they are all working towards that purpose, there is a greater sense of camaraderie and teamwork. Reminding people of that common purpose (i.e. patient care and comfort) helps them feel a sense of meaning and significance and helps break down and/or avoid silos. It is critical for teams to understand that success is best defined by achieving your purpose In other words, it is more about team success than individual success.
2 Develop team agreements.
One of the most common traits of successful teams, is that they have established norms by which they agree to operate under. Here are some questions I typically use when helping teams develop their agreements:
- What are the behaviors we need from each other to develop greater trust?
- How do we want to make team decisions?
- How do we ensure that everyone’s voice is heard?
3 Clarify team roles.
When team members clearly understand each other’s roles and responsibilities, they can then find opportunities to help each other out. I often ask healthcare teams how they define success at the end of their day. My objective is for them to see that their work is all about the best interest of patient care, and that includes helping out our colleagues when needed. Establishing a common set of metrics helps to define success and ensure that the team is able to measure their progress. The ability to achieve goals not only boosts team morale and reinforces the team mission, it also helps the team to identify factors that contributed to their success. When goals are not achieved, it allows the team to discuss strategies that might be more effective.
4 Learn from mistakes and failures.
Teams that learn together, bond together. It is critical, especially in a health-care setting, that mistakes are seen as an opportunity to learn and improve, versus an opportunity to shame and blame. The team agreements should address this issue. You want people to openly discuss errors and near misses so that they can continually improve patient care and safety. A culture of continuous improvement among a team means that everyone knows that mistakes are bound to happen and that the best thing that can come from them is learning.
5 Provide opportunities for the team to get to know each other on a more personal level.
One great way to do this is through a personality workshop. It is a perfect opportunity to learn about people’s different styles, preferences, communication behaviors, and ways they might be misunderstood. It can lay the foundation for ongoing sharing, a key element for teams to develop psychological safety.