“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” – George Bernard Shaw

There is a big difference between a team and a collection of individuals.

A team is made up of individuals who work together with a common purpose and vision – sharing information and resources in such a way as to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Teams communicate effectively – and they often disagree. In fact, disagreement is an important sign of a healthy team. Disagreement means that individuals are approaching problems from different perspectives, dialoguing, and determining the best approach.

A collection of individuals may sit in the same office, but they don’t collaborate. They work towards individual goals. There is little sharing of information and resources.

Individuals don’t disagree often because they are focused on their own work. There is no collaboration, because there is no one to collaborate with.

Individuals may get the job done, but rarely are they as effective and as innovative as a collaborative team would be.

Be honest for a moment: do your employees function primarily as individuals, or as part of a team? I know that it took me decades to learn how to create effective teams in my businesses. And I know many of my clients struggle with this process regularly.

If you’re not there yet, below are three steps that you can take to encourage collaboration:

Encourage effective communication. This starts with you, as the owner or manager. Do you actively seek feedback and differing opinions? Or do you expect your employees to follow orders without question? Set the right example for your team to follow.

Evaluate team performance, instead of individual performance. If you preach teamwork all year long, but revert to individual evaluations when it comes to performance reviews, you’re contradicting your message. Evaluate individuals primarily based on their contribution to the team, not just on their personal achievements.

Structure your teams based on the abilities of the individuals involved. For a team to be effective, it must be comprised of individuals with different skill sets and perspectives. Assign each team member a role that suits his or her individual strengths.

It may be a cliché, but the statement “the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts” is very true in the world of business. Strong teams = profitable businesses. I’ve seen it time and time again!