Teamwork in the Workplace: A Definition

By Chris Stowell

A tight knit team is a group of competent individuals who care deeply about each other. They are fiercely committed to their mission, and are highly motivated to combing their energy and expertise to achieve a common objective.

From our observation and studies on teamwork in the workplace, we have found three primary conditions that have to be met in order to attain higher levels of team performance and member satisfaction.

Resources and Commitment
Ownership and Heart
Learning


These three conditions are the heart and soul of teamwork. These conditions are not a blueprint. Each group is unique, and the specifics and details of teamwork have to be worked out separately. Let's look closer at number one - Resources and Commitment.

Resources and Commitment

A strong personal commitment and leap of faith are needed to start up and sustain tight knit teams. Genuine energy and resources are required during the early stages. For example, important non-task time is needed for teams to meet and establish identity, expectations, spirit, bonds, and patience is required for learning, coaching and behavior change that is consistent with team principles. Investment in teamwork is very intangible. You can't measure it like most corporate assets that can be sold off for a profit if you have a couple of bad quarters.

Teamwork in the workplace requires a lot of care, sensitivity, and patience for it to pay off in the long run. This is not exactly the formula that most organizations run on these days. Typically we see organizations pre occupied with putting out fires and handling crises. Most organizations have a very short-term focus and many leaders are not enlightened enough to invest in fire prevention and not get caught by the excitement of the task or by the activity trap that is so common today.

It doesn't take much to bring a group of individuals together to do a job especially if you are depending on just a compensation package to get them to produce. On the other hand, teamwork in the workplace does take a deep personal commitment and belief in team synergy and collaboration. Some managers harbor the belief that work only gets done when there is a singular powerful, expert, authoritative figure running the work group.

When you look closely at it, you are likely to find that a disturbingly large number of organizations are built around rugged individualism and that people want to build their own empires and work independently. So many of us have been taught in life to commit to win-lose competition for academic grades and sports scores. We learn to "go for the jugular" very early on in life, and we put our faith and commitment into this mode of thinking. Competition can be fun and rewarding if we can get this powerful drive aimed and the right target.

The problem we see in a lot of situations is that teamwork in the workplace is being killed by "friendly fire." In other words, we are directing our competitive energies at looking better than another person or looking better than another team in the organization.

All too often we compete for personal rewards at the expense of others. We act as though our department is in a race with other departments, and we take our eye off the real competition. The fact of the matter is that we have found few organizations that are committed enough to base some of the reward system on teamwork and make it a priority. It seems that in earlier generations it wasn't a big problem and teamwork was naturally rewarding. People on the farms and ranches had to cooperate to survive. Successful crops and survival of the livestock depended on joining the efforts of many. Barns and homes were constructed as a result of teamwork, only we called it being neighborly.

Amazing things could be accomplished today if we could get members and leaders to trust and commit to the teamwork process of joint problem solving, consensus decision making and shared leadership and win/win conflict resolution.

About The Author:

If you would like to learn more about teamwork in the workplace or to discover how CMOE has assisted teams around the world please contact a Regional Manager at (801)569-3444.

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