Teamwork with success
Easier said than done?
Even when I was going to school, there were two different kinds of classmates. Those whose eyes lit up when the teacher said “group work” and those who preferred to work on their own without spending time in discussions. Once in the world of work, the first group, the “team players”, are in hot demand.
However, many managers know that in practice teamwork does not always proceed as smoothly as hoped. In this article, we examine some of the key questions around teamwork.
What exactly do teamwork and being a team player mean? What are the different roles within the team? How do managers create the right conditions for good teamwork and what are the usual problems that arise?
When do we talk about teamwork?
The terms teamwork and being a team player are used in an almost inflationary manner nowadays. In order to understand the best way to achieve your goal of great collaboration, you’ll need to start by delineating the terms.
We talk of teamwork when a group of people work together on a common goal. Along the way, each team member assumes a different task. All participants thereby make an important contribution to achieving the shared goal. The allocation of the individual tasks and the coordination of the workflows are the responsibility of the team leader.
Being a team player
The soft skills that a team member needs to successfully complete the shared task are called team skills. A team player is therefore able to make a valuable contribution to getting the task done without needing to assume control of coordination and without being subordinate to other team members.
Teamwork is often the preferred form of work for limited duration projects in which employees from different departments or disciplines work together. But teamwork is also important for achieving optimal results when performing daily tasks within the same department.
Whether your employees can cooperate successfully not only depends on the team members themselves – it also depends on how well you master your task as a team leader. Keep reading to learn about frequent challenges that leaders face when performing their role.
Is good teamwork even possible?
When applying for a job, describing yourself as a “team player” is always recommended. Ultimately, managers have no other choice than to base their decision about whether the applicant suits the team on their first impression.
That said, even if the employees already know each other well, goal oriented teamwork can often end up more difficult than expected. What is the reason for this?
4 frequent misconceptions on the way to successful teamwork
1. Group equals team
Not every group of people is a team. A team is characterised by collective responsibility and clearly defined positions, rules and responsibilities. A group is merely a loosely defined association of individuals.
2. Teams can be formed quickly
Truly effective teams are rarely formed in the blink of an eye. A team – no matter how well the members already know each other – must first emerge after a team development process. This learning process should be initiated by the manager and be pursued in the form of workshops, or at activities outside of work as well.
3. Teamwork should also function without a team leader
You wouldn’t want the team leader to be called to the scene every time there is a problem? Should a team also be able to organise itself once in a while? These statements do not apply to the way the team works.
To function optimally, the team needs a competent team leader to coordinate the workflow. However, there are other forms of work, such as collaboration, which rely more on self-organisation.
4. Teamwork is always better
Colleagues who are successfully work on a project, share what they have learned and lend each other a helping hand. Doesn’t that sound like music to the ears of any manager?
However, assuming that team structures are suitable for every task would be a false conclusion. When no team building measures have been initiated in particular, your employees often lose more time working together unproductively than they do working individually.
Given these hurdles, it is not surprising that many managers feel that productive teamwork is not actually realistic. However, with a little groundwork, it is possible to put together a high performing team. The following section lets you learn about the benefits that good teamwork can have for your organisation.
Teamwork as a success factor: how you and your company will profit
Could it be that your department saves more time and resources when each employee does his or her work on their own? Successful teamwork and competent team leadership need to be learned, and the prerequisite for this is an initial learning curve. Once mastered, however, functional team structures bring your company with some positive effects:
- More social competence among your employees due to an improved problem culture and communication
- Improved leadership competence among the managers
- Optimised results due to the collective learning effect and increased sense of responsibility
- Greater loyalty of your employees due to a stronger social bond
- Better preparation for the digital future, where networking and working in global teams are becoming increasingly important
What is the best way to proceed to achieve all these benefits for your company? The first step is to take a close look at who your employees are.
The right composition: types of people in the team
Whether someone works well in a team is often determined by how self-confident they are. However, neither a team that consists entirely of loners nor one comprised entirely of communicative talents will reach its goal – it’s the right mix that makes the difference.
In the 1970s, the psychologist Meredith Belbin researched the question of the extent to which a team’s success depends on its composition. as a result of his studies, he defined nine team roles, a balance of which is important for a high performing team:
- Shaper: proactive, overcomes obstacles
- Complete finisher: conscientious, ensures optimal results
- Implementer: organises and turn plans into reality
- Coordinator: communicative, steers the team
- Team worker: diplomatic, mediates in conflicts
- Resource investigator: enthusiastic, makes contacts
- Specialist: committed, contributes expertise
- Plant: creative, proposes new ideas
- Monitor evaluator: analytical, checks feasibility
This type of categorisation helps you to identify the respective strengths exhibited by your employees. In addition, however, you should also pay attention to individual characteristics. For example, think about the person’s personal circumstances and emotional stability. Also remember that whether an employee has a positive or negative mood can be decisive.
5 tips: how to work successfully in a team
To sum up, you’ll find five practical measures to help you steer your next team project to success:
Only use teamwork when it makes sense to do so
Teamwork is a good idea when the assignment is too large and complex for one individual to take on. Team structures are also suitable for tasks where there is a need for interaction (between disciplines or departments).
Invest in team building measures
There are many possibilities for strengthening the team, ranging from large events to smaller activities:
- Professionally organised activities that promote solidarity and to practice team dynamics (e.g. full day or multiple day team building workshop)
- Mutual participation in a community service project
- Spending the lunch break together or doing something together after work
Reflect on the right composition
The right mix of people and the way they interact determine the success of a team project:
- Consider which employee is best suited for which task within the team
- Obtain an overview of the different types of people, and value the strengths that each role has
Ensure the right prerequisites
Establish a set of principles for working together:
- Define a clear group goal
- Divide up the individual tasks fairly
- Lay down a number of group rules for interacting with each other (e.g. respect, politeness)
- Define key dates for the process (e.g. deadlines for individual projects and times for feedback meetings)
Embrace your role as a team leader
The success of the team depends on how well the team leader manages it:
- Mediate in case of difficulties or conflicts
- Support low performers, rein in the alpha dogs
- Prevent the formation of smaller groups
- Praise or reward successes and evaluate failures with the team
- Steer the project in the right direction and make sure you focus on what really matters