What is Teamwork?
Teamwork is defined in Webster's New World Dictionary as "a joint action by a group of people, in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group." This does not mean that the individual is no longer important; however, it does mean that effective and efficient teamwork goes beyond individual accomplishments. The most effective teamwork is produced when all the individuals involved harmonize their contributions and work towards a common goal.
What Makes a Team Work?
Effective Teamwork Requires Trust
Regardless of whether in the workplace, home or leisure environment, trust is absolutely essential as without it there is likely to be much conflict and simply an inability to build relationships and be able to work effectively as a team. Particularly within the workplace environment trust is key to maintaining good working relationships between colleagues, employees and employers. Trust requires honesty and honesty is crucial to being able to work efficiently without worrying that one is going to be stabbed in the back or manipulated out of a job.
Effective Teamwork Requires Accountability
Without accountability it is completely impossible to work efficiently within the workplace environment or indeed any other environment as a team. Feedback is a key part of accountability as this is necessary to help individuals to understand how they are progressing. Regardless of a person's expertise or position it is important to have another person who will hold him or her accountable.
Accountability reduces the likelihood of a person getting sidetracked at work and is a valuable means of keeping track of employees. This issue also helps reduce conflict as it creates opportunity for individuals to recognize their role within the wider team and how they may improve on key skills.
Communication Skills and Teamwork
A really crucial aspect of effective teamwork is being able to communicate well with one another. Thus requires the following skills: active listening, negotiation skills, non-verbal communication awareness and patience. It is also important to be aware of tone, gestures and facial expressions as these will have an impact on how one is perceived by other members of the team.
Characteristics of Effective Teams.
The following are eight characteristics of effective teams were identified by Larson and LaFasto in their book titled Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong (Sage Publications 1989).
- The team must have a clear goal. Avoid fuzzy, motherhood statements. Team goals should call for a specific performance objective, expressed so concisely that everyone knows when the objective has been met.
- The team must have a results-driven structure. The team should be allowed to operate in a manner that produces results. It is often best to allow the team to develop the structure.
- The team must have competent team members. In the education setting this can be taken to mean that the problem given to the team should be one that the members can tackle given their level of knowledge.
- The team must have unified commitment. This doesn't mean that team members must agree on everything. It means that all individuals must be directing their efforts towards the goal. If an individual's efforts are going purely towards personal goals, then the team will confront this and resolve the problem.
- The team must have a collaborative climate. It is a climate of trust produced by honest, open, consistent and respectful behavior. With this climate teams perform well...without it, they fail.
- The team must have high standards that are understood by all. Team members must know what is expected of them individually and collectively. Vague statements such as "positive attitude" and "demonstrated effort" are not good enough.
The team must receive external support and encouragement. Encouragement and praise works just as well in motivating teams as it does with individuals.
- The team must have principled leadership. Teams usually need someone to lead the effort. Team members must know that the team leader has the position because they have good leadership skills and are working for the good of the team. The team members will be less supportive if they feel that the team leader is putting him/herself above the team, achieving personal recognition or otherwise benefiting from the position.
Stages of Team Growth.
It is important to know that teams don't just form and immediately start working together to accomplish great things. Dr. Tucker, a Psychology professor at Ohio State University developed a framework for team growth and feels that teams must be given time to work through the stages to become effective.
Stage 1: Forming. When a team is forming, members cautiously explore the boundaries of acceptable group behavior. They search for their position within the group and test the leader's guidance. It is normal for little team progress to occur during this stage.
Stage 2: Storming. Storming is probably the most difficult stage for the group. Members often become impatient about the lack of progress, but are still inexperienced with working as a team. Members may argue about the actions they should take because they faced with ideas that are unfamiliar to them and put them outside their comfort zones. Much of their energy is focused on each other instead of achieving the goal.
Stage 3: Norming. During this stage team members accept the team and begin to reconcile differences. Emotional conflict is reduced as relationships become more cooperative. The team is able to concentrate more on their work and start to make significant progress.
Stage 4: Performing. By this stage the team members have discovered and accepted each other's strengths and weaknesses, and learned what their roles are. Members are open and trusting and many good ideas are produced because they are not afraid to offer ideas and suggestions. They are comfortable using decision making tools to evaluate the ideas, prioritize tasks and solve problems. Much is accomplished and team satisfaction and loyalty is high.