In a team-oriented environment, workers contribute to the overall success of the organization. They work with fellow members of the organization to produce these results. Even though they have a specific job function and belong to a specific department, people on a team are unified with other organization members to accomplish big picture objectives.
There are a lot of people in business who want their employees to work wholeheartedly together as a team, but struggle with team building execution. Trying to have people come together as a group with a common goal and strive to achieve it can be very challenging. Team building is not as easy as you think, and the workers we manage are sometime not as apt to join and collaborate with a team as we would hope.
Benefits of Teamwork
We all inherently understand the benefits of teamwork. A group of skilled individuals putting all their brainpower together to work for an innovative and quick solution to a problem is excellent. The sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.
When the workload is shared throughout the group, dealing with pressure and stress is much easier for everyone, usually making the final product much better than if if was done individually. I’ve learned in business that if you want to get something done on time put together a crack team of motivated people to take it down.
Teamwork is not always easy
Teamwork is not always easy to implement. Sure the benefits of teamwork can easily be explained, but actually making it work within a group is much different. From an early age we were set on the path of individualism. Think about going to school, you did not go through school as a group. You participated in school with peers, however you worked individually to achieve your test scores.
Of course many of us participated in team sports or group projects in classes, but the majority of our social experience through our childhood and young adulthood was all centered around being an individual. When we shift from school into the workplace, and employers want to implement a strong culture of teamwork and collaboration in the workplace, it’s hard for people to adjust to the new collaborative style.
Japan‘s Stark Teamwork Contrast
Japan is an example of a culture which socializes it’s individuals to be more of a cohesive team rather than a lone individual. There are many metaphors which explain the Japanese mindset of community and teamwork but one that sticks out is the weak link in the chain metaphor. I had a Japanese Businessmen explain this to me some time ago.
He told me that his company, and more specifically the group within his company that he was a part of, was like a chain. Together they were strong and could weather any storm, but if there was a defect in the chain then the whole apparatus became worthless. Everyone worked hard to not be that weak link.
Upon completion of college, when the Japanese worker is introduced to a company, they are completely indoctrinated as a member of the company. They actually go to an extended boot camp to learn everything about the company and officially become a member. This process further builds on the teamwork mindset that is so special in Japan.
The only western groups that I can associate the same mentality with is the military. The military goes to boot camp together and is completely engrossed and indoctrinated as a member of a larger whole. Japanese workers also go to a quasi Boot Camp to endure the same type of mental and physical indoctrination for the sake of their prospective company.
In the west, we don’t do anything of the sort. When is the last time you sent your new hires to a four-week intensive boot camp to learn the ins and outs of your company? Sure we may send our employees to a weekend team building seminar, but that’s nothing like the team building training courses for joining a Japanese corporation.
I’m trying to illustrate, with this example, that teamwork is not an inherently God given trade. It’s a learned behavior that we can teach employees of the company to exemplify. We may not go to the extent of military or Japanese-style boot camp, but we can take away some strategies to make our teams better.
Regardless of how individualistic and nonconformist our mentality is we can still build great teams in our companies. Every team needs a leader. The duties and expectations of the team also need to be clearly defined. Everyone’s going to have different and unique talents, and they should be utilized to the fullest extent for the betterment of the team. Communication must be open and honest.
The most important aspect of achieving great teamwork success in my humble opinion, is withholding judgment of the teams performance until after the project is completed. If a team wins the NBA championships with a buzzer beater shot they still win right? It’s not right to write them off as losers 10 seconds before the game is over just because they are a few points down. On the same token, don’t write your team off before the buzzer ends just because everything isn’t going perfectly.
Team members deserve regular and honest positive reinforcement. When they achieve success they deserve rewards. Rewarding team members for effectively managing their tasks and going above and beyond what’s expected is a good habit to practice. It also cultivates a culture of teamwork within the organization.