Is There a True Teamwork Definition?
It can be incredibly difficult to accurately define teamwork because different people have different opinions when it comes to what teamwork define is. While everyone can likely agree that teamwork is important and teamwork skills are important to have, finding a common consensus for what it actually means is very difficult.
Therefore, I have created my own teamwork definition.
Teamwork Definition in 50 Words or Less
Teamwork happens quickly and naturally when: 1) everyone on the team knows what needs to be done, 2) they have the skills and ability to do it, 3) there are no barriers to prevent them from doing it, and 4) are willing to work together to get it done.
Because there is a lack of one true teamwork definition, it’s actually far more important to know the purpose of teamwork rather than trying to define teamwork in one common sentence.
What is Teamwork?
Rarely do teams learn together. Too often, increases in skill are confined to individuals. Sometimes that can become a barrier to teamwork: because there are dramatically different knowledge and skill levels, some team members aren’t able to keep up.
When an individual attends a course or discovers a useful practice, he or she should be encouraged to share it with the team, periodically putting the entire team into a learning environment is critical. That’s teamwork.
If you’re a team leader, understand that despite your best efforts, you will be incapable of adequately recognizing every team member’s efforts and contributions. Good work will slip by and go unrecognized. If this happens often, the team member may well become disillusioned.
Relieve yourself of the burden to be the sole dispenser of recognition: ask team members to recognize each other. Make it a team expectation to thank other team members for their assistance, and to look for opportunities to catch each other doing something praiseworthy. That’s teamwork.
To Win More, Think More
Have you ever held a team retreat? When was the last time your team came together for the express purpose of thinking about the work you do? Do you periodically pause as a group to reflect on what you’ve learned and internalize the lessons? Do you meet to consider opportunities, and not just to solve problems?
The team that thinks more wins more. That’s teamwork.
Forget About “Self-Directed” Teams
Self-directed teams are a siren’s call. Sounds good, but it just doesn’t ring true. What do you think your team would do–right now–if given the choice of doing whatever they choose? Are you confident the chosen “direction” would be consistent with corporate objectives and complimentary to other organizational teams? Would this “self-directed” team create the results they have responsibility for achieving? The answer lies somewhere between “probably not” and “most definitely not.”
Self-directed teams are a myth, but self-managed teams can be a useful tool.
A self-managed team is one with someone providing a clear framework of what need to be done (we typically call this function “leading”) and then giving the team flexibility in choosing how they attain those results. When leadership has provided an agenda, self-managing teams can be very efficient in achieving the intended results. That’s teamwork.
However you define teamwork, there are some definite advantages to a company when their employees work as a team.
Advantages to team working:
- Increased efficiency: when team members use their specific skills and experiences, targets will be achieved and tasks will be accomplished, as members of the team achieve synergy by working together.
- Innovation through constructive conflict: when team members have different perspectives, different opinions, and different viewpoints, often better ideas can be brought to the table, as ideas evolve with everyone’s input.
- Less employee turnover: a well-functioning team, where everyone is positive and enjoys working with the other team members will make them less likely to leave the organization.
Of course, there are downsides to most everything, and team working is no exception.
Disadvantages to team working:
- Group think: this is when the team stops looking at alternative actions, and “the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.”
- Complex process: a well-functioning team isn’t always easy to build. Each set of skills has to be compatible with the rest of the team. There can’t be too much conflict, but too little conflict and group think may occur.
- Evaluating an individual’s contribution: within a team, it is very difficult to determine if an individual has performed above or below expectations, as a poor performer can be carried by the team, and a strong performer’s input can be diluted.
- Inability to make a decision: if there are too many people, with differing opinions, it can result in no decisions being made at all.
When it works, and works well, team working has huge benefits. Companies should strive to have their employees working together as a team where possible to take advantage of those benefits, being mindful of the downsides.
My book, Teambuilt: Making Teamwork Work, is available in the Sanborn Store or by calling 800-650-3343.