What Does It Take To Make Teamwork Work?

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. A team needs to learn together.

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. 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. Peer recognition is powerful.

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.

Some managers, knowing how difficult it can be to create great teamwork, undermine their efforts by making teamwork “optional.” That is, they appreciate the people who are good team players but they tolerate those who aren’t. As the old adage goes, what you allow, you condone. Those on the same team should know that figuring out how to get along and work with other teammates is their responsibility.

Summing-up: 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) they are willing to work together to get it done.

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