We’re All In This Together: Superstar Team Building Tips

Team building is crucial in any business, but I believe it’s especially important in nursing!

Why is that?

When nurses function as a team, it’s easier to complete all of the gazillion tasks required to care for today’s complex patients. Working together to admit and discharge patients, manage patient’s pain and elevated blood sugars; and prevent falls, infections, and unhappy patients is what’s best for the entire staff and most importantly, what’s best for our patients.

It’s also no secret that medical care is becoming more advanced with each passing second, often requiring us to take a multidisciplinary approach and learn quickly in order to provide patients with the type of care they deserve. This is significantly easier to do with a strong team.

So, how do we build great teams comprised of nurses who serve their patients well and enjoy their work?

  • Open communication

  • A shared vision

  • Team identity

  • Mutual accountability

I truly believe that teams comprised of these four characteristics will be successful in any environment. Not only will they be successful, but 9 times out of 10 they’ll be enjoying themselves, the people they’re with, and what they do! Isn’t that what everyone wants out of their career?


All high-performing teams have two things in common; they’re built on a foundation of trust and they have high levels of employee engagement. This is done through open and continuous communication.

A garden of trust doesn’t bloom overnight, it has to be fertilized and watered on a regular basis. We can accomplish this by being vulnerable with our team when we make mistakes or don’t know something (remember; no one knows everything!) and keeping our word regardless of other factors competing for our time and attention. In other words, if you mess up – own it and if you say you’ll do something – do it.

Another key element in communication is employee engagement. High engagement means that employees care deeply about their work, feel like they’re part of the team, are bought into the greater vision, and bring their unique strengths to their work. One way to improve employee engagement is quick daily huddles and weekly team meetings. These provide great environments for listening, sharing, learning, and growing together as a team!


Before you can meet any goal you must know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This is where a shared vision comes in.

Simply put, a shared vision is the driving force behind any type of unit. When members of an organization are all working towards the same goal, they work together so harmoniously that the end result is a high performance team who gets things done, which is what every medical facility needs the most!

So, how do we get it?

You’ll find that most people’s driving force is (in one way or another) other people, which is why a shared vision is best built through my three favorite E’s: empowerment, empathy, and encouragement. Do you have an employee who is more than competent, but she doubts herself? Empower her by letting it be known she’s great at her job. Do you have a co-worker who has made a couple mistakes recently? Show him empathy by telling him about a time (or three) that you’ve made mistakes. Is there a new nurse on staff trying to find her place? Encourage her by letting her know she’s not alone.

Treating one another well will not only create a shared vision, but also cultivate an atmosphere of growth and learning, which is essential in any field of work.


A team identity refers to individuals within an organization having a positive view of, and identifying with, the other members of their team. This can be accomplished through clarifying each team members’ role, making your expectations clear, and defining team procedures.

Clarifying roles is crucial in avoiding power struggles within your unit. If everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing it’s less likely they’ll be telling someone else how to do their job. The same is true with expectations; make it known right out of the gate what will and won’t be tolerated because most behavior we deem inappropriate takes place in an area that’s shaded gray due to a lack of communication. To help build trust, try encouraging your team to find and define their own team procedures.

Be sure to give them the time they need to learn each other’s work styles and support them as they grow!


Mutual accountability has a clear link to higher work performance, but it’s also great for team building! This is because it relies on the trust and partnership formed around shared agendas and encourages a culture of growth because team members aren’t afraid to make mistakes. Instead, they stand firm in the knowledge that they’re backed by a supportive team who will “take the fall” with them. What mutual accountability doesn’t mean is giving an individual a get out of jail free card when they make mistakes, but rather using it as a learning moment.

Try gathering your team for 10-15 minutes a week to join in on an “oops!” meeting where each team member talks about something they should have done differently throughout the course of the week and what they’ll do to rectify it in the future. This is also a great way to encourage open dialogue among your team!

Bottom line is this: Great teams are not magically created. Great teams are cultivated, nurtured, and grown over time. The good news is that any group can become a high performing, supportive team!

It’s my sincere hope that these tips are valuable to you. Looking for more team resources? Check out these 7 characteristics of exemplary healthcare teams!

Be kind. Take care. Stay connected!

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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations that want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day.

If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website www.reneethompsonspeaks.com.

Contact Renee today at renee@rtconnections.com to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.

About Renee Thompson

Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, visit www.healthyworkforceinstitute.com

There are 9 comments on this post
  • Renee Thompson
    Daymar College
    Jun 23, 2017 Reply

    good team skills are important for nurses. They have to work with supervisors and colleagues to help patients get the care they deserve.

    • Renee Thompson
      Renee Thompson
      Jun 26, 2017 Reply

      Absolutely! It's amazing how many nurses work in silos instead of as a team. Hope this article reminds them that as you said, when we work as a team, patients get the care they deserve!

  • Renee Thompson
    Jun 10, 2017 Reply

    I love your idea of weekly "oops" meetings. One more thing I believe is crucial to team building is looking for specific ways to have fun together at work. This boosts morale, decreases stress, fosters creativity, and encourages social bonds.

    • Renee Thompson
      Renee Thompson
      Jun 11, 2017 Reply

      Thank you!! I agree that creating opportunities to have fun together is a critical aspect of team building! What are some ways you've added a bit of humor?

      • Renee Thompson
        Diane Lansing
        Jun 16, 2017 Reply

        A few of the fun things we do are potluck lunches, wearing silly clothes, posting the managers' baby pictures, and hosting chili cookoffs.

        • Renee Thompson
          Renee Thompson
          Jun 17, 2017 Reply

          Thanks for sharing these ideas. I just read about how teams that COOK together, also work better together!! Love the manager baby picture idea!

  • Renee Thompson
    Renee Thompson
    Jun 08, 2017 Reply

    You're welcome!

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