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