What is teamwork? Why is it that a team of people can achieve greater success than an individual working alone? I'd like to try and answer those questions with reference to my own personal experience.
Teamwork is obviously a subject about which many people seek to know more. If you search the Internet for teamwork related resources and a plethora of information turns up for free. Team building activities, teamwork games, team work articles and motivational teamwork quotes being just a few of the resources readily available to the researcher.
To gather my own thoughts I've looked back over my own experiences and thought about the best team I've ever worked with, I've contemplated what made that team great and asked myself the questions: Why did we we all work so well together? Why were we able to achieve greater than the sum of our individual achievements?
It's made me think about what stops teams from working well too, what prevents them from being a team?
What is it that make a team great?
Here's a few dictionary definitions:
Team - "two or more persons working together"
Teamwork - "combined action of a team, especially when effective and efficient".
In my analysis the key words are "working together" and "when effective and efficient".
You see those two short phrases describe to me exactly what a great team is all about. I'll give another dictionary definition before I go on:
Team-spirit - the spirit of a group that makes the members want the group to succeed
I agree wholeheartedly with that definition, there's nothing quite like being a member of a great team, where everyone is working together in harmony, their individual abilities all harnessed into a single focused effort. It's genuinely very effective, it makes you feel that together you could achieve anything. You probably could too!!
Why can a team be more effective than one person?
Physical laws would tend to suggest that the overall ability of a group can be no more than the sum of the individual team member's abilities, and could be slightly reduced due to inefficiencies within the grouping. Sadly this is often true for many so called teams, because in truth they are just a group of people suffering from a lack of motivation and individual selfishness, not what I would define as a team. True teams are empowered by team-spirit, the willingness to act as a member of the group rather than as an individual. Individuals empowered by team-spirit benefit from much greater motivation and therefore achieve greater success than they would acting alone. It follows then that a whole group of people empowered by team-spirit will achieve greater things than all of its individuals would alone.
What motivates people to work as a team?
I'll never forget my first experience of working with a really inspired team , it was awesome! You could actually feel the energy it generated! I was one member of a great team of engineers, we were all working together to develop a petrol injection system. Every member of that team was great! The development engineers worked with enthusiasm to produce ideas and solutions to solve each of the challenges we encountered. The software engineers quickly and accurately implemented those ideas and solutions and turned them into practical, working pieces of electronic engineering. The application engineers took the software systems and made them really work, they fettled and tuned them into real world solutions. Every member of that team was enormously talented and each of us was driven on by a will to see the team succeed, which we did with bells on!
What de-motivates a team?
I've also experienced the frustration of working in a group that simply wasn't a team. I've discovered that even if a group has one or two inspired individuals it will still fail if the other members just lay back and bask in that warm light of inspiration. It led me to think hard about what stops a group member from becoming a team member or what stops an individual from developing team-spirit.
I think the most fundamental factor is the attitude of the individual themselves. While it is possible to make any group into a team under extreme circumstances, escaping from certain peril for instance, this effect is only temporary. Long lasting teams will only work if all of the members have the will and discipline to behave as a team, there is little room for selfishness and no room for laziness, these traits reduce respect for one another and without individual respect the teams days are numbered. I believe that some group members fail to develop team-spirit because to do so requires some personal growth, a willingness to put aside their own needs and be supported by others. An individuals background or psychological makeup may prevent them from taking this important step, they may be able to with regular exposure to full-on team-spirit but some folks just never get there.
How can you create team spirit?
Survival simulations for team building - An exercise in survival at an outdoor team building centre is a great example of forcing a team to work together under extreme circumstances, they have to pull together to get through. I'm not sure how long this sort of motivation lasts though, as an instant boost it's certainly a great idea but must be backed up by more regular team motivation exercises.
Workshops to improve teamwork - The internet is littered with companies who can run motivational team workshops to provide regular backup to bigger exercises like the one above.
The internet - It's a great resource if you're looking for a lower cost solution, there are hundreds of sites offering free teamwork games and teamwork videos.
Mentoring - This is a great way to instill personal respect into a team. Senior members cab offer their advice and experience to help junior members to grow in a non-threatening environment.
Personal coaching - Yet another method of providing individuals with a forum in which they can explore their own motivations, strengths and weaknesses and use what they find to grow.
Social time - I think it goes without saying that it's important for the team to spend social time together too. Bonds of friendship are grown here and that is all to the good of the team in the long run.
If you want a job doing, build a team.
1. Pick the individuals carefully, the more motivated and self-aware they are the better.
2. Keep them motivated with regular team building events.
3. Foster respect by rewarding honesty and integrity at all times. A blame culture will eat away at your team-spirit.
4. Improve self-awareness of every member with regular coaching and mentoring
5. Create team-spirit and multiply it to create an abundance of motivation and ability!