With a firm understanding of what teams are, we can begin discussing what it is that actually helps to make teams work together well.
It seems that all industries now accept that team work is important. For instance, it is common for job advertisements to include requirements for a ‘team player’ or ‘team worker’. This implies that the company desires that the successful candidate will be able to work effectively with others and contribute to a positive work environment. This is commonly used in job advertisements across a range of industries, as teamwork and collaboration are important skills in many professional settings.
So, even though the term team work is used frequently, it is unfortunately often used in an ambiguous manner, usually to sell an idea rather than to achieve something tangible. These terms are often used in a manipulative manner in advertising, and especially in employment contexts.
Managers, Human Resources, or job advertisements often use these terms to appeal to people’s desire to work collaboratively and to emphasize the team-oriented nature of a job or company culture. So obviously it is something an employee may like to hear because they feel that it would be a safe environment to work in. However, after working some time in their new position they discover that there is no structure or guidance in the work place to create a team environment.
Though it is often used ambiguously across all industries and departments, throughout this publication we will only be using it in the positive sense and with the understanding that the reader or users have a genuine desire to create and maintain healthy teams for the benefit of all.
Getting back to definitions, there are many publications written in the past few decades on teams, how to lead teams, teamwork, and how to establish a team etc., but there is not yet a universally accepted one. Not that we are arguing for a centralized definition. But by the end of this chapter the reader should have a clear understanding of what teamwork is, what are the most desired traits in a team that makes that team work well, the benefits of teamwork, and some drawbacks to be aware of.
“Healthy collective cooperation within a group is necessary for the group to transform into a team that works efficiently. Understand that the goal of cooperation is crucial.”
Working cooperatively with a group of individuals to accomplish a goal is the process of teamwork. Despite any interpersonal conflicts, teamwork entails that participants will make an effort to work together while utilizing their unique strengths and offering constructive criticism.
Some definitions commonly referenced in academic publications includes Scarnati, J. who posits that “Teamwork is a cooperative process that allows ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results.” Harris, P., and Harris K., however define it as “Teamwork relies upon individuals working together in a cooperative environment to achieve common team goals through sharing knowledge and skills.“
Due to the lack of a single, universally accepted definition, it is clear that understanding the goal of cooperation is more crucial than trying to define it.
Six Essential Teamwork Qualities
Though many organizations now recognize that healthy teamwork is essential, they do not necessarily know how to establish a culture to nurture it and help it flourish. To achieve this, we have identified some of the most crucial characteristics needed to nurture in a team for it to really become effective. These qualities ensure that team members work effectively together, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses to achieve shared goals.
Shared objectives and dedication to achievement
If team members are dedicated to the group’s success, shared beliefs and common aims should exist. Even if different departments strive to focus on the common aims, it will increase productivity. It’s very easy for each department to focus on their own internal problems and forget that a larger goal is being played out which requires the focus and interest from all.
Everyone on the team experiences success and failure equally. If the team is unsuccessful, then no individual member will be successful. For instance if the engineers are able to produce a high-performance product, but the commodities required to produce the product can’t be delivered in time, or if the website is not functional, then everyone loses.
Respect, encouragement, and realistic expectations between team members are essential. For instance, the team cannot expect a junior web developer with less experience to perform at the same level as a senior one. Also, companies have also observed that older professionals tend to take longer to complete projects but make fewer mistakes. If both can work together well, then it is more likely to achieve maximum potential from both skill sets.
It’s crucial to provide and accept feedback and to foster constructive criticism. For instance, a new designer who may still have great energy for creativity and a better understanding of current trends but voluntarily accepts advice from a more seasoned colleague may enhance their overall performance, which will be advantageous to the team.
Suitable team balance configuration
Teams should have a healthy balance in the various team positions because different tasks require different abilities and skills. Both teams with and without a leader will struggle to work effectively if the skill sets of each member has not been selected well or delegated properly.
Responsibility and team leadership
Team members will receive a certain amount of decision-making flexibility in return when they commit to the leadership and are responsible and accountable for their activities. When the team leader assigns tasks and monitors progress, each individual can use their skills more effectively and endlessly to produce greater results.
“To achieve an effective and productive team, there are some specific important qualities that should be nurtured.”
Benefits of Teamwork
Companies generally like to focus on the product or service that is the ‘money maker’. So it can the idea of investing in developing a healthy team working environment can sometimes seem counterintuitive. This thought is erroneous, for investing in this provides numerous benefits for the company.
Beyond the obvious advantages of mutual support and increased sense of accomplishment, it can also lead to greater creativity, improved decision-making, enhanced problem-solving skills, and increased productivity. By fostering a collaborative environment, you can encourage your team to share ideas, learn from each other, and work together towards common goals, ultimately leading to greater success for your business. So, instead of asking why you should invest in teams and collaboration, consider how it can positively impact your business and take proactive steps to promote collaboration within your team.
When team members apply their expertise, specialization, and skill sets together, targets can be reached more easily, quickly, and with fewer mistakes. Not everyone excels in every endeavor. Individuals can complement their deficiencies with the strengths of other team members to achieve the greatest results. For instance, having a team member who can make judgments and move projects along may be beneficial if you are a perfectionist who consistently misses deadlines.
Gains from constructive conflict
Conflict in a healthy team will be productive. Note here, that we are referring to a healthy team. Conflict in a non-healthy environment tends to result in negative results rather than positive. When team members can discuss conflicts openly, it can be utilized as an opportunity to innovate and enhance current procedures.
Lower staff turnover
It may seem obvious, but people like to stick around people and places where they feel comfortable and happy. Achieve this, and it’s like that your organization will see lower staff turnover which in turn, decrease hiring expenses. If you can create the right environment for your teams to flourish, it can only help your business’s cause, and better, the staff feel safe.
Expansion and adaptability
Promoted collaboration provides the chance for quicker learning and development. When you promote people to new jobs, you have additional flexibility because team members benefit from each other’s skill sets. Teams with diversified skill sets are more adaptable to carrying out various tasks.
“Benefits can see improvement in efficiency, productivity, staff retention, and adaptability.”
Although working in a team is very advantageous, there are potential drawbacks to be aware of. So it is vital to recognize, and important to adjust or allow considerations for that.
George Orwell’s concept of groupthink in his novel ‘1984’ highlights the dangers of prioritizing the maintenance of a group’s consensus and cohesiveness over critical thinking and independent judgment. While team bonding and collaboration are important for achieving shared goals, the phenomenon of groupthink can emerge when team members prioritize conformity and unanimity over creative problem-solving and innovation. In such situations, team members may show little initiative, and their judgments and agreements may go unchallenged within the team, leading to a lack of diversity of thought and ideas. Ultimately, this can result in a decrease in creativity and productivity within the team, as members become less willing to challenge assumptions and explore new approaches to problem-solving. Therefore, it is crucial for teams to actively encourage diverse perspectives and dissenting opinions, and to foster an environment where individual thinking and independent judgment are valued and celebrated.
Making procedures challenging
When all or some members wish to have a say in every step can cause procedures to become sluggish. Consider a meeting where everyone wants to ensure that their ideas are carried out but there is no defined agenda. The correct mix of team roles may not always be simple to identify, which makes forming the team a challenging procedure.
The effectiveness of the team will suffer if there are significant differences in opinions and working styles among team members that prevent unbiased discussion. Conflict becomes an unwelcome focus for those who are surrounded by ambiguity and lack of urgency.
Assessment of each individual’s contribution
It can be challenging to assess whether an individual has performed above or below expectations because teams share accountability. Employee unhappiness can occasionally result from this problem: if the person has over performed, he will be unhappy because he hasn’t been adequately rewarded; if he has underperformed, his coworkers will be angry and may rebel against his lack of performance.
“Recognize that there are also draw backs when working together and the need to actively adjust, and allow considerations for that.”
Healthy collective consciousness within a group is necessary for the group to transform into a team since it produces teamwork, and understanding that the goal of cooperation is crucial.
To achieve an effective and productive team, there are important qualities that should be nurtured. Focus on shared objectives and interdependence while recognizing differing personality traits which can be achieved with continual honest dialogue so that members can use their skills and abilities in the most profitable way. And lastly, members need to be willing to be accountable to the leadership and monitoring of those who are in lead positions for relevant tasks.
Benefits can see improvement in efficiency, productivity, staff retention, and adaptability. It can also help people overcome their weaknesses and finish tasks faster and more accurately and can spur innovation and improvement. From a purely fiscal point, companies will see a reduction in staff turnover, and existing diverse teams can handle more tasks.
Recognize that there can be draw backs to people working together and the need to actively adjust or allow considerations for that.
Describe the advantages of working with your current team.
How would you define the concept of teamwork?
What do you find most difficult about working in a group?
What are three drawbacks you can see in your experience of working with teams?