A Clear Definition of Teamwork

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What is the Meaning of Teamwork?

Defining the teamwork concept will vary from leader to leader, but there are three basic foundational principles that can be used to define teams.

First, a team is a collaborative approach to the tasks at hand.   The main focus of any team is to work in partnership for a common goal or cause.  A collaborative approach assumes that there is a desire to work together for a common cause.  Numerous organizations have failed because they did not consider the character or the desires of their work force to work in partnership.  Glenn Varney writes:

Our society has moved from the formalistic to the collaborative.  Today, those who work in organizations demand a chance to be involved, and they expect to have their talents and skills utilized effectively; they are also willing to participate in activities that will make the organization perform more effectively.  Because it has become generally accepted that creativity and innovation are traits widely distributed through the population, managers must be able to discover and put to use the resources within their teams.  Once creative forces are unleashed within an organization, the potential for positive results is greatly enhanced.1

Second, an important issue in dealing with team development is commitment.  Commitment must begin with the team leader.  Without commitment from the leadership, a healthy team will be difficult if not impossible to build and maintain.  According to William G. Dyer, commitment is the most critical factor in team development.  He says:

I feel commitment increases if people know what is going to happen and if the process makes sense.  But after reviewing the approach and providing all the insight I can, then I want to know about people’s commitment.  For me, testing commitment is an art, not a science.  I cannot measure whether a person is a 6 or an 8 on a commitment scale, because I do not have a scale.  I have to talk and listen to others talk and trust my experience and judgment.  I judge commitment, to some degree, by the willingness of the leader and unit members to take responsibility for team-building work, to spend time, to accept assignments, and to get involved in the agreed-on actions.  Team building is a human process.  It involves human feelings, attitudes, and actions.  It is something that people have to accomplish among themselves.  You cannot substitute high-paid consultants, complex designs, or fancy resorts for human beings making a mutual commitment to try to work together more effectively.2

The value of personal commitment cannot be overstated.  The strength of any organization will depend upon the level of commitment of each member.  The commitment of the team leader is foundational in the development of the team member’s attitude.

Third, a team is a coordination of individual talents into a corporate whole. Thus, the major goal of anyone developing a team must be to consider the needs of those working within the unit if the team is to be successful:

The dynamics of cooperation and competition have been shown to affect attitudes and productivity.  A meta-analysis confirms that cooperative experiences, as compared to competitive experiences, reduce prejudice, increase acceptance of others, and heighten morale.  Traditionally, competition has been assumed to motivate productivity.  However, meta-analyses clearly indicate that cooperation induces higher achievement and productivity, especially on more complex task and problems that benefit from the sharing of information and ideas.3

teamwork-collaboration-commitment-coordinationThe Value of  Teamwork

These three words – collaboration, commitment, and coordination – are foundational for a definition of strong teamwork.  In designing a team these three building blocks can enable the team leader to define and create directives that are clear and aimed toward a productive future.

Dale Roach

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Characteristics of an Effective Leader
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May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6

  1. Glenn H. Varney, Building Productive Teams (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1989), 2.
  2. William G. Dyer, Team Building (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1987), x.
  3. Richard Guzzo, Eduardo Salas, and Associates, Team Effectiveness and Decision Making in Organizations (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995), 89.
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8 thoughts on “A Clear Definition of Teamwork

  1. Great article about the elements of true teamwork, Dale!

    Thanks for sharing another terrific post…

    1. Sean, I am glad to share this article. This is from my doctoral project: A Consultant’s Strategy for Team Development Within the Local Church.

      I really appreciate your response and comments.

  2. Dale,
    Thank you for this clear and informative article about teamwork! I will definitely share it with others in my church cell group.

    1. Dale Roach says:

      It is always great to connect with those who are attempting to grow strong cell groups within their fellowship. I believe that this approach to ministry is one of the most productive. I had great success as a senior pastor in the development of cells. I also am seeing some good results in helping pastors and church staff in the creation of cells for pastoral leadership. Thanks for your comments.

  3. G. P. Hunter says:

    I have found your writings quite supportive and fresh when facilitating workshops for team coordination in the military environment. My classes typically include newbies and richly experienced, all ranks and genders. Finding just the right terms or examples is a challenge and it is rewarding to see the light of understanding in their faces.

    Thank you.

    1. Dale Roach says:

      It is always good to hear from those who are working hard to develop strong teams. However, it is a true pleasure to hear from someone who is working with our men and women in the armed forces. I am glad that the articles and resources are helping you in your workshops. If you have any ideas, thoughts, articles or insights that you would like to share please let me know.

  4. Thank you for your wonderful post. I too believe that true teamwork start with the personal commitment of the team leader. When our leaders are committed, they inspire us to be our best.

    1. Dale Roach says:

      It is great to hear that you found the post to be helpful. Glad to hear from another team leader who believes in teamwork.

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