Updated: Mar 29
It is said, "Teamwork makes the dream work." "There is no "I" in the word team." Do you recall hearing those phrases throughout your life? I know I do.
If you think back to when you were a child, or when you played with your friends, more often than not, we played in teams. To achieve a goal, the team members would take on different roles in a game. While the stakes may have been low, we as children were emulating roles that we would take on for much of our adult and working lives. As I often say, “as adults, unfortunately, we have more at stake and more to lose.”
Team performance is a concept that has been researched by many. According to Amy Edmondson, high-performing teams are generally characterized in her book “Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy.” as one (the team) that participates in functions similar to “reciprocal interdependence” (Edmondson, 24). I describe this as, to get work done, there is an exchange of ideas and a constant flow of communication.
Peter Senge, Author of “The 5th Discipline” mentions that there are five pillars to high functioning learning organizations (teams) including systems thinking, personal mastery, shared vision, mental models, and team learning (Senge, 6-9).
Additionally, Adam Grant challenges us to “Think Again” in his most recent book, challenging old thought processes to think better and differently in order to do better work.
When the team is not “teaming” well, what happens?
Think about a time when you have been on a team that was not effective because of conflicts or issues among some or all members of the team. What was your experience as a member of that team? My guess is you had a number of thoughts including:
This is a waste of time and purpose
If things are bad enough, turnover
Dysfunctional teams waste time, energy and cause stress. They can be detrimental to your productivity. Additionally, wasted time is wasted money in an organization. In the worst-case scenario, dysfunctional teaming can even be deadly.
Read about some consequences of dysfunctional teaming here.
Why should your organization give a damn about teamwork?
High-performing teams function like a well-oiled machine. They are more efficient because they are able to communicate more freely and are willing to experiment with possible solutions. They are also willing to challenge the norm and are not chastised in doing so. It is through this process that growth and innovation occur.
High-performing teams SAVE organizations money.
Employees who are engaged in their work are more productive and perform at a higher level than employees who aren’t engaged. Engaged employees also have lower rates of absenteeism and experience less burnout, leading to fewer mistakes and unexpected costs.
Source: SESIL PIR Consulting, Workhuman Live 2021
High-performing teams stay at your organization longer.
One word. Retention. Employees who are happy and engaged stay with teams and organizations longer than those who are not. 94% of people managers agree that a positive workplace culture creates a resilient team of employees. (SHRM, 2021). High-performing team members can be considered for promotion within an organization, creating a career path trajectory for those that have the capability to take your organization to the next level.
High performing teams innovate and create
Teams that do not hesitate to question ideas or stretch themselves creatively can often be the most innovative and creative. Innovation and creativity in an organization can help foster new business trajectories that were previously unimaginable. This can result in the creation of new sources of income for an organization.
How can your organization give a damn about teamwork?
Human beings are fallible. As organizational leaders, it is our responsibility to create an environment where employees can perform at their best.
Psychological safety is a term coined by Edmondson. Generally, it means being able to speak up and be heard (in an organization) while sharing concerns and failures with others without being criticized or chastised. That does not mean sharing too much (no TMI please), or failing to provide constructive feedback. To promote a psychologically safe environment, consider:
Asking questions of your team
Listening with the intent to understand first (thank you, Covey)
Give constructive feedback. You may not agree, but you can acknowledge
Provide a platform to openly share feedback
Challenge yourself to think differently.
Challenge old beliefs, biases, and mental models. Ask yourself how you can “Think Again.”
All of us have blind spots, especially when we have mastered a craft. It is difficult to see a different approach when we are too close to the problem. We must constantly challenge our old ways of thinking to ensure we are considering all possibilities when it comes to a new idea or way of doing things.
Effective teams are inclusive, meaning that every member can contribute, participate, is represented and recognized for their contributions.
Community of Practice
The term community of practice means we are all linked to something greater than ourselves. Most people want to go to work each day knowing they are contributing to a bigger plan. Those who work towards a common goal will work tirelessly together in the trenches, no questions asked. That is the cornerstone of teamwork.
In the end, team effectiveness is about building individual and team morale. It is working together to find ways to perform tasks better and more efficiently. Effective teamwork requires buy-in from everyone involved from the top down.
Edmondson, A. “Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy.” 2012
Senge. P. “The Fifth Discipline: The Art of Practice of the Learning Organization.” 2006
Grant, A. “Think Again” 2021
Pir, S. Sesil Pir Consulting, Workhuman Live 2021
SHRM, “The Culture Effect”, 2021