The workplace is where people come together to perform profitable tasks. The idea of teamwork is thus directly embedded in the office. The moving parts in an office are expected to come together to achieve a common goal.
Yet, teamwork doesn’t happen just because everyone has the same employer. People and situations at work might force the culture to become more individualistic and less collaborative. We’ve all met the lone-ranger types that like to do things on their own. While this can speed up their own tasks, everyone else’s generally get slowed down.
How about disagreements over the best course of action? These happen often and tend to end in everyone trying to do things their way. And while taking initiative now and then is great for business, a free-for-all is the last thing you want.
Fostering teamwork in the workplace will nip these issues in the bud. When everyone understands the importance of collaborating, the workforce will move more like a unit.
This doesn’t mean all types of teamwork are good. Left unchecked, workers are as likely to indulge in time-wasting team games as in brainstorming a super product. This article discusses some of the ways to promote good teamwork. We include real-world examples of teamwork in action to drive the point home.
What Is Teamwork?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines teamwork as the combined actions of a group, especially when effective and efficient. Merriam-Webster chips in with “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.”
From these definitions, several things become immediately apparent:
● Teamwork leads to efficient activity
Like the bundle of sticks in Aesop’s fable, teamwork transforms individual limitations into collective strength. It enables a group to carry out a task faster than if each person did it on their own. The result of collaboration is usually higher-quality work achieved with no wasted effort.
● Teamwork leads to success
Teamwork is effective because it brings human resources together to achieve a goal. What one person lacks, another will provide. Gathering disparate skills and competencies under one umbrella will make achieving targets a breeze.
● Teamwork fosters a sense of belonging
Working independently can be liberating but may also bring along a sense of isolation. Teamwork reinforces the idea that an employee’s work matters. He or she can see in real time how their activities contribute to the overall product.
● Teamwork promotes unity in the workplace
Few things can top the sense of victory and accomplishment when a team project becomes successful. Synchronizing your skills with others’ to create a compelling product can give birth to a hunger to replicate the success. We did it, yay! Now, let’s do it again!
What Is Good Teamwork in the Workplace?
Unity, a sense of purpose, efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction are hallmarks of good teamwork. You can see how teamwork impacts an organization when you consider the world of sport. Let’s use soccer or 11-a-side football as an example.
A football team consists of eleven players, each with a loosely defined role. A goalkeeper stops the ball from going into the net. Defenders prevent the opponents from getting a clear sight of goal. Midfielders progress forward with the ball. And forwards try to score in their opponents’ goal. All of them have the same objective in mind—winning the game. Each player’s talent and ability is used in pursuit of this goal.
The better each unit performs its role, the more efficient the team is. A football team has an overall leader – the coach. Their duty is to ensure each unit and the collective perform to their optimum level. When a player becomes less productive or breaks cohesiveness, they may be subbed off for a fresh teammate. The objective is to give the team more oomph to maintain or increase their momentum to the end.
When an attacker scores, the defenders and midfielders celebrate as well. When a goal-bound effort is kept out, fist bumps, high fives and back pats express everyone’s appreciation. Occasionally, an attacker will run back to help with defending or a defender goes forward and attempts a shot.
In this way, football exemplifies the benefits of teamwork. The best teams in this or any sport are able to blend individual skills and talents into a well-oiled winning machine.
The same is true of the conventional workplace. R&D tests out different concepts and proposes the most viable for production. Production transforms the idea into a sellable commodity. Marketing organizes ad campaigns to attract the target demography. Sales interfaces between the company’s product and its customers.
Why Is Teamwork in the Workplace So Important?
Every organization worth its salt now makes teamwork an important consideration when hiring new people. But why? What’s so special about teamwork, and why is it a priority for HR?
The simplest answer is that teamwork is the best way to get things done. Company personnel want to win as much as sports teams do. Teamwork is the fastest and most sustainable way to make the business thrive. And who wouldn’t want to enjoy the perks of victory like holidays, upgraded salary packages and promotions?
Good teamwork is important in the workplace for the following additional reasons:
Teamwork speeds up work
Teamwork is another way to describe division of labour. Dividing projects into smaller chunks generates efficiency. Employees are able to focus on what they can do best. This results in the following:
● Task simplification. Complex tasks are broken into simpler ones. The team collaborates to get them done faster.
● Increased specialization. Employees acquire specialized skills that can be deployed at short notice.
● Increased output. Division of labour gets projects finished faster and enables the team to handle more tasks in less time.
● Greater synergy. Employees learn to trust, rely on, and adapt to one another.
Teamwork fosters accountability
Being a lone ranger is all well and good. But what happens if independence leads to slow or ineffective work? An employee who goes solo may start to slack off and slow down the overall process.
In a team, everyone keeps each other on their toes. Knowing that others rely on you to do a fine job will motivate you to produce great work. Because responsibility for the project is collective, mutual encouragement will flow throughout the group.
The best part? A good team can function with little or no intervention from management. This frees up time and resources to devote to more pressing areas.
Teamwork breeds innovation
Each employee has a background. Each one graduated from a different school, grew up in a different place, lived under different social and economic conditions, and met different people during their life’s journey. Our background colors our perception and thinking and shapes the mental repositories we draw upon for inspiration.
The solution an employee chooses for a problem is colored by their biases. They might come up with a great idea or two without considering all the angles. Give the same problem to a team and watch ideas blossom like green leaves on a summer day.
Multiple backgrounds, experiences, skills, and perspectives will lead to projects and products that tick all the right boxes and are
● not offensive to any social group,
● appropriate for all categories of the target market, and
● compliant with legal, safety and health protocols.
Teamwork covers for individual weaknesses
So, you’re in charge of a 6-member content development team. You ask each person to independently generate content on a specific subject. Each writer turns in their work, and you notice their strengths and weaknesses. One has got a great handle on syntax but is bad at organizing ideas. Another has got the creative side of writing covered but needs to watch their sentence length. On and on it goes. You are not impressed.
Now, stick them together in a room to collaborate on a single project and watch magic appear.
Teamwork encourages healthy competition
When you challenge a team in the right ways, good things happen to the business. If there are tangible rewards like promotions and bonuses on the line, employees will expend extra effort to prove that they deserve them. This doesn’t always mean doing more work than is necessary. Increased competition can make a worker discover a smarter way to do their job.
Be it inter-team or intra-team, healthy competition will have a positive impact on productivity. Moreover, employees will learn what their peers are doing better and work to reach or surpass the same level.
Teamwork can create lasting relationships
Successful teamwork brings employees closer. As the bond grows stronger, a mere working relationship can transform into friendship or something more.
Examples of Teamwork in the Workplace
Teamwork manifests itself in the workplace in many ways. The type of teamwork that comes to the fore depends on the needs of the project and the structure of the company.
An effective team will execute a project the right way. A team leader deploying the right type of team skills is essential for successful teamwork. These four teamwork examples should teach you what to expect.
Communicating. Express yourself in a clear manner and make sure you’re understood before you move on. Communication can take place orally or in writing and using any official medium. When communicating, you’ll be doing one of the following:
● Sharing information
● Giving instructions
● Providing guidance
● Offering support and advice
● Doing research
● Setting goals
Creating. Present ideas and collaborate with your team to shape them into viable products or services. Innovate and embrace the perspectives of the team members to refine products and concepts. Creativity as a teamwork skill also entails
● sharing ideas and responsibilities,
● building products and developing projects with contribution from each team member,
● developing a rapport with one another, and
● building specialist skills to allow for greater synergy.
Mediating. Be an impartial soundboard for team ideas and stay neutral while a common ground is sought. Deploy your problem-solving techniques to defuse arguments before they escalate. Intervene in a way that fulfils the company’s objectives without alienating anyone.
Mediating and problem-solving skills in the workplace also entail the following:
● Politely explaining your ideas and beliefs
● Agreeing and disagreeing amicably
● Collaborating with enthusiasm even if it isn’t your own idea
● Evaluating the merits of team suggestions
● Maintaining positive dialogue to reconcile differing perspectives
● Monitoring team members to ensure compliance
● Defining goals and targets
Respecting. Pay attention to the perspectives, feelings, emotions, and ideas of team members. Even if you disagree with them, don’t be bossy or fussy about it. Understand their struggles, acknowledge their efforts, and praise their dedication. Be generous with compliments and sparse with criticism. When you care for them and display a friendly demeanor, you lighten the atmosphere and set the stage for success.
Ways to Promote Teamwork in the Workplace
Effective teamwork is the central pillar of successful companies like Google, Starbucks, Pixar, and Marvel. We have distilled the strategies they adopted into these eight tips to help you ensure effective collaboration in the office.
1. Highlight high-performing individuals
When someone feels like they’re appreciated for their work, they’re more likely to want to continue doing a good job. Appreciation is a tonic for employees. For this reason, be generous with praise when an individual within a team deserves it.
Strike a balance between individual and team accolades. This can be a slippery slope; so, be sure not to overdo things either way. If you focus too much on one or two people, the rest may start feeling underappreciated and lose some motivation. The same thing can occur if you don’t give a brilliant individual their due but only bestow collective praise.
Either way, make sure to connect your recognition with measurable achievements.
2. Make everyone familiar with one another
While familiarity may breed contempt, it can also breed ease. Familiarity among team members leads to a more comfortable atmosphere. Thus, when forming a team, try and get acquainted with each person so that you can better understand them. This will provide you with insights into how to get the best out of them when the project starts.
You can arrange team bonding sessions if the situation permits. But make sure everybody is on board before you try to gather them in one place. Coercion or mandatory getaways might backfire. Aim for a simple activity in an informal surrounding.
Your initial efforts may not magically turn the team into a merry band of brothers. Just be persistent. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
3. Set clear roles and responsibilities
To promote effective teamwork, clarification of roles is essential. Employees should feel like they’re part of a team for a reason. A worker who believes that they’re just there to make up the numbers won’t contribute effectively to the team effort. This will lead to inefficient collaboration.
To remedy this, set clear and defined roles for everyone. Each person should know what they are meant to be doing and when they’re supposed to be doing it. Even if two people end up doing the same job, you can make them do it in shifts.
More importantly, put mechanisms in place to ensure that everyone is doing their assigned jobs. For example, you can use an activity tracker to prevent people from delegating their work to others. Ensure tasks and responsibilities are properly documented in case there’s a dispute.
4. Set goals and make them realistic
Purpose in the workplace flows from the top to the bottom. A company should have clear goals that the employees can buy into. If not, it’s hard to keep everyone moving in the same direction.
Overall targets can be broken down into specific targets for different teams. The targets should be complementary so that employees can feel a sense of harmony and work for the greater good.
The targets for a team should be realistic and attainable. There’s no point telling the production team to triple output with the same budget as last year’s. Unrealistic expectations will rapidly dissolve unity as workers become disillusioned.
Reasonable goals enable team progress to be tracked at regular intervals so that speed can be ramped up if needed.
5. Let them express themselves
Micromanagement is the enemy of successful teamwork. Give everyone some latitude to act freely and—yes—make mistakes. They can learn more from missteps than they will from your trying to babysit them.
Your team members are independent adults and should be treated as such. Present yourself as an overseer rather than a dictator, as a collaborator more than a superior. Respect their initiative, and they will respect you in return.
A team performs better when its members feel like willing collaborators instead of captives tortured into obedience. If you have a carrot and a stick, use the carrot first.
6. Keep an open-door policy
You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you ignored feedback from those lower down the proverbial food chain. The great thing about ideas is that they can come from absolutely anywhere. Maintain open communication channels and encourage the team to use them.
Part of this involves making yourself approachable. A distant, forbidding personality doesn’t suit a 21st-century team leader. Be friendly and relatable, and they’ll come to you.
Make sure you’re reachable across all official channels. Don’t forget to act on good ideas already shared so that others will be willing to come forward with fresh insights.
7. Encourage everyone to voice their opinions
Being in a team is no fun if only one person gets to propose ideas and make decisions. Your employees are living, breathing humans with minds of their own, so treat them as such. Actively encourage everyone to share what they think about a new project, process or methodology.
Some team leaders try to emphasize mute obedience above everything else, which is a bad mistake. Healthy dissension is good for the business. Focused debate can reveal the drawbacks of a plan and offer better solutions.
8. Deal with mistakes the right way
If a team member is as smart as you believe they are, then they will know when they’ve made a mistake. You don’t need to make matters worse by turning the searchlight on them. By making someone the scapegoat, you isolate them and risk making them uncooperative.
Mistakes have happened and will keep happening in the workplace. The best you can do is try to minimize their frequency and consequences. Rather than public-shame the culprit, encourage them to fix what they did wrongly.
With a time tracking app like Traqq, you can walk back the day’s activity and be transparent about what went wrong and why. This will enable the team to quickly switch into solution-hunting mode instead of assigning blame.
A team is a group formed for a purpose, and teamwork is what they do together. For good teamwork to happen, the group’s output must represent something better than the sum of its parts. A leader can cultivate good teamwork in the workplace by communicating, creating and mediating with intelligence.
Making the team work as a well-oiled unit will have positive effects on individual productivity, group output, and the company’s bottom line.