A team is defined as a number of persons associated together in work or activity: as a group on one side (as in football or a debate) or a crew, gang.
The definition of work is: activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something; sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result; the labour, task, or duty that is one’s accustomed means of livelihood; a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity.
Teamwork is the work done by people who work together as a team to do something; work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.
The key characteristics of teams
So a team is a like-minded group of individuals who are focused on the same goal(s), who pull together, contributed equally, care equally, work on a shared project(s)or initiative(s).
Team members are committed, dedicated to the shared cause, believe in the greater good, put aside ego and id, cooperate and collaborate. Everyone has a role to play, everyone clearly understands that role and consistently, to the best of their ability, executes against that role.
That may be the ideal, but in reality this is rarely true.
Teamwork is impacted by confidence, experience, character, security, trust, motivation, satisfaction (on many different levels) and the social skills of each of the individuals on the team, making it a quagmire of different and differing emotional states, sources of motivation, personality and emotional intelligence (EQ).
I have been more often praised than criticized for my skills at teamwork, and while never happy with criticism, I can understand its origin.
When things falter, I will often be the one to “agitate”, in different ways, depending on the situation. I refuse to accept mediocre, never mind failure. This seems like rocking the boat, a disruption many find dealing with, difficult.
The trouble with teamwork is the “all but subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole” part.
It’s not entirely evident when hired into a department or assigned to a project that you are now a member of a team. That, fundamentally, you are expected to work together and collaborate to make something happen, achieve a goal.
- Not everyone cares to the same degree
- Not everyone has the same ambition, work ethic, perspective, or set of priorities
- Not everyone has the same sense of responsibility or accountability
- Not everyone sees the objective(s) similarly and agrees on the same path to reach it/them
- Every individual has a distinctive personality
How often have you heard?
“It’s not my job.”
“I only get paid for 35 hours a week.”
“No one told me I had to do that.”
“I just can’t agree with this direction.”
“I don’t understand how they expect us to do that.”
Not everyone can see the big picture
Not everyone is able to see the objective(s), how to achieve it/them, or understand how what they do contributes to the whole. They are unable to perceive the consequences of mistakes, missed deadlines, poorly done work.
All too often, the expectation is that the leadership will come from within the team. This, despite the normally hierarchical setup, where titles, seniority, grades and classes determine pay, workspace and benefits which are distinctly related to status.
The trouble with teamwork is that everyone must have the same definition of team.
Teamwork entails relationships: the relationship of team members, the relationships between individuals on the team and the interaction of the team within the organization. And these relationships must have a high level of success!
Teamwork is anti-status, and within the normally hierarchical environment of a company or organization; this is a bit of a disconnect.
A team must have:
- Clear and common goals
- Shared values
- A loyalty to the cause and to each other
- The same sense of urgency
- Group cohesiveness (built, not engineered)
Members of the team must have clarity as to the individual roles, responsilbities and expectations of contributions of the team as a whole, but importantly of the individual team members, along with:
- A good understanding and acceptance of the strengths and weaknesses of individuals on the team
- Strong and well respected leaders
- Individuals must be willing to take up the slack, when necessary.
What every team needs is a good coach.
In team sports, touted as the best preparation for working adulthood, players are coached to deliver to their potential by respected authority figures who can explain that while the pitcher or the quarterback is an important position, the team cannot achieve success without a cooperative offensive and defensive effort to which every player on the court/field contributes.
- The principals of team are reinforced, rewarded by praise and success; mistakes are used a learning opportunities.
- Individuals are constantly evaluated, re-evaluated and their role adjusted according the to the progress and evolution of the team.
- There is a system of regular team assessment and feedback called “practice”.
- Wins are celebrated and team members acknowledged.
Perhaps going back to basics might help ensure superior team performance in business.
The trouble with teamwork is that there are two important elements to focus on: team and work.
It’s a challenge to focus on both, but without the synergy, things don’t happen optimally.
The trouble with teams is they are a lot of work!