Like any organic system, an organization is only as strong as its combined parts. In human organizations, such as companies, sports teams and even families, the integral parts are made up of team members working together as one. For such entities to become and remain successful, each individual must work toward the common good of the organization, and the organization must value individuals. Strong team work automatically leads to successful achievements and positive outcomes.

What Makes Up a Team

Any group with a common goal is considered a team, and teams can include two people or thousands of people. Most people are part of some sort of team, whether they realize it or not. In organizations, administrators group teams by projects, goals and daily tasks. Most of the time, there is a common team philosophy suggesting it’s every team member’s responsibility to be a team player. This philosophy tends to fall apart when team members want to go in different directions or strongly disagree with the powers-that-be, especially when the team’s power is not shared equally. Motivate a team to stay strong by focusing on the "strength in numbers" philosophy.

What Causes Dysfunctional Teams

Typically, when teams break down, the dysfunction starts to manifest itself in lack of production and failure to reach goals. Things stop running well, and “group think” can take over, leading to a common negative attitude toward the team or its leaders. Several factors can lead to dysfunctional teams, including lack of trust, lack of cohesiveness and lack of a clearly defined purpose. Good leadership is key to positive teamwork and successful achievements. When you have an ineffective leader, or one that does not care about the common good of all, things can fall apart quickly. Some successful teams can also suddenly lose their momentum and morale when a new leader takes over. Either team members aren’t willing to accept the new team leader, and his or her new way of leading, or the new leader is weak or is more concerned about his or her own agenda.

Successful Teams

Characteristics of a strong and successful team include smart and positive leadership; good morale, communications and team dynamics; and the willingness of all team members to see themselves as team players. Most of the time, teams are more effective when they operate as a democracy, but effective leadership is essential. Team members often become dissatisfied or disgruntled when they feel their opinions don’t matter, or they aren’t allowed to have a voice in daily happenings or about team goals. Keep morale high by encouraging ongoing input from team members and putting suggestions into action. Team members like to feel proud not only of being a part of something bigger than themselves, but also of being validated for their individual ideas, contributions and achievements. A leader must find and maintain a delicate balance between helping members to feel good about their roles as team players and validating them as individual contributors.

Leadership and Teams

Strong leadership is essential for teamwork and successful achievements. A good leader recognizes the importance of supportive sponsorship of the team, as well as its individuals; focuses on all stakeholders, including customers or fans, team members and other organizational players, as well as management, directors or owners; sets smart, realistic, well-defined and well-planned goals; creates an environment of mutual respect and trust; and engages and motivates all team members, according to Dynamic Teamwork Delivers. Effective leaders motivate team members to collaborate toward common goals and problem-solving; communicate openly and effectively; sustain accountability as individuals, as well as for the team; and find sustainable balance between significant factors in their lives, such as work, family, recreation and health.