Teamwork is one of those buzzwords that fly about whenever you hear anything about organizational processes. In fact, you would be hard pushed to find a resume that doesn’t include the fact that the applicant is “an excellent team player” somewhere in there. Similarly, any time there is a vacancy, the requirement for team work will be firmly noted on there as well. Unfortunately, it has become so much of a buzzword that people have stopped thinking about what it actually means. Sure, it is about working together, but what does that entail exactly? And why is it so important within an organization to have teamwork? Isn’t it a case that everybody has their own job?
For a long time, businesses operated on a process of “individual control.” This means that one person covered the reception desk, one person did the photocopying, one person did the finances and so on. This works to a degree, particularly in a very small organization, because it makes it clear who does what. However, it stops individual employees from feeling like they are part of the whole. Besides this, if anybody is ever off sick or takes a vacation, all of the operations stop. Transitioning into an environment of team work can be a difficult process, but it is one that must be achieved.
“With the growth of a business comes the reality that individual control over everything from finances to projects must give way to team-based efforts. Moving from individual control to team-based work often proves a rocky transition for businesses, despite the widespread acknowledgement of the importance of teamwork.” The Importance of Teamwork by Eric Dontigney, Demand Media
Why Leaders Focus on Teamwork
There are hundreds of benefits offered teamwork for leaders and the organization, ranging from benefits to individuals to the organization as a whole. It is a way to reduce stress, to improve communication between the various players, to make the entire organization more efficient and to improve problem solving across the board. Without teamwork, an organization will soon start to lag behind the competition and leaders and managers surely do not want that to happen.
“Work never suffers or takes a backseat in a team.”
Creating a Team Is Leadership
As Henry Ford once said “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” However, all of that is much easier said than done. Whether you have a workplace that has always had individual control and want to change, or whether you are committed to teamwork but it just doesn’t seem to happen, the intention is generally there, but putting it in place doesn’t seem to work. One of the reasons for this is that teams aren’t stagnant. People move jobs, new projects come in, staff members are added and removed and so on. Hence, if leaders try to build a team based on the individual members or the individual projects, they will always fail. For all the best intentions, this is not how you build a team. Importance of Team and Teamwork – Management Study Guide
“In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of the organization. You work with fellow members of the organization to produce these results. Even though you have a specific job function and you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other organization members to accomplish the overall objectives. The bigger picture drives your actions; your function exists to serve the bigger picture.” 12 Tips for Team Building: How to Build Successful Work Teams by Susan M. Heathfield, About.com
This means that the first step to a leader’s success is to determine just what the bigger picture actually is. This means having well-defined strategic goals, written in a way that individuals can sign up to them. It means having the opportunity in place for people to ask questions about these goals, and it means there has to be clarity about individual roles, team roles and the role of the organization itself. With so much clarity being needed, it is no surprise that things often go wrong.
It is said that leaders need to keep in mind the so called “12 Cs” of team work. These are clear expectations, context, commitment, competence, charter, control, collaboration, communication, creative innovation, consequences, coordination and cultural change. If you make these your main focus on a strategic level, and ensure that these values are accepted from the bottom up and the top down, you will be able to instill a real culture of teamwork within your organization.
Good Leaderships Instills Trust In the Team
A key element to having good teamwork is trust. Employees need to trust each other. They need to trust their leaders and managers and they have to trust the organization and its goals as a whole. If trust is lacking within your company, this should be your very first issue to address. Without it, everything else will fail.
“If individuals involved in the team do not trust each other, they will be less likely to help each other and therefore the whole unit will suffer. Trust is vital.” The Importance of Business Teamwork – Six Sigma Online
Besides trust, leaders have to consider cooperation, vision, clear goals and team building activities. Never underestimate the power of ice breakers, fun and some laughter. Team building activities will bring real strengths to your team. However, remember that teams are fluid, meaning that people will leave and move regularly. As a consequence, you have to make sure that you either have regular events like it, so that new people can be included or that you have a designated spokesperson that will introduce a new staff member to the team by using the lessons learned from the team building exercises in the past.
However, most workforce professionals would say that a team building day is needed at least once a quarter. Not only does it help to rebuild or maintain levels of trust, it also allows teams to regain sight of the overall vision and the role they play in achieving this. Make it fun, take an entire day out for it and make sure your team members get lunch and refreshments, as this makes them feel like the valued staff members that they are. Remember that team members are people and there always certain things that people respond well to, including praise and various incentives.