Teamwork is a collaborative effort by members of a group working together to achieve common goals. When teamwork breaks down, members of the group find it difficult to complete tasks effectively and often struggle with no clear objective. When a team operates like a well-oiled machine, it catapults its members ahead of the competition as a result of its cohesive nature. Teamwork is an aspect of any successful organization.
Elements of Teamwork
Effective teams have several basic elements in common, including collaboration, participative decision-making, a commitment to common goals, continuous learning, openness to new ideas, an ability to adjust to unforeseen circumstance and a willingness to embrace diversity. Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, authors of "The Wisdom of Teams," illustrate the concept of teamwork as a triangle with commitment as the base, skills and accountability as the two sides and performance result at the top. Therefore, the more committed, skilled and mutually responsible a team is, the more successful.
Importance of Effective Leadership
Effective leadership is the cornerstone of a motivated group. A good leader leads by example, has the skills necessary to set performance examples and puts the group above individual aspirations. Without a principled and effective leader to guide the group, the team could disintegrate into discord. Leadership that inspires and motivates builds a more cohesive team that focuses on quality outcomes.
Teamwork Embraces Diversity
Solitary workers have virtually little contact with coworkers, leading to fewer opportunities for growth, expansion and exposure to new ideas. When your team successfully integrates members from diverse backgrounds, it creates a beneficial environment for developing fresh ideas and approaches. Each team member serves a purpose, whether it is organizational or conceptual. Individuals who most consider "trouble makers" often force their co-workers out of their comfort zone and create a sense of conflict. This conflict can be a catalyst for discussion. The inspired leader encourages animated discussion among his team. Teams that recognize diversity as a strength have more successful overall outcomes.
Better Performance Under Stress
Powerful teams quickly cohere in times of unforeseen stress. When a team understands that working in a group requires flexibility and quick action, its members remain calm and focused where poorly-managed teams flail without direction. For example, if a project reaches a hurdle that requires a major overhaul of original plans, a solid team can adjust plans and take action accordingly with little supervision. Creativity, adaptability and an unflappable attitude under pressure are the marks of a strong, cohesive team.
- "The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High Performance Organization"; Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith; 1993
- Pennsylvania State University: Innovation Insights: Enhancing Teamwork and Collaboration in Your Unit
- Nondestructive Testing Resource Center: Teaching Resources: Teamwork in the Classroom
- Galileo Educational Network: Guide To Assessing Teamwork and Collaboration
- Bloomberg Businessweek: Conflict-Friendly Leadership
- Cameron Spencer/Digital Vision/Getty Images