The Importance of Teamwork
Many people working in organisations try to avoid being part of a team. Perhaps the many levels of requirements for good teamwork place it in the “too-hard” basket. Yet there are many advantages accruing to both the organisation and the individual from successful teamwork. In this post, we look at some of these advantages.
Because a team has a common goal or set of objectives, its whole process of work becomes more efficient than one person working alone. As problems come up, there are multiple people (meaning, skills and perspectives) to solve the problem. Shared responsibilities can help plough through the work. Departments or units within a company can take on more work, generating extra revenue without the need to hire extra staff.
A learning/growing experience
Teams can and do bring together people from different backgrounds and levels of experience. The cross-fertilisation of ideas can be conscious, as when team members deliberately share with or teach each other (say, at meetings), or it can happen out of team members’ awareness on an informal level. Either way, knowledge, skills, and capabilities grow in teams, enhancing members’ self-confidence, which also improves attitude and heightens job satisfaction: a win for each individual and a win for the employer. Organisational skills and also those of tolerance and empathy can grow as teams learn to accommodate different personality types, ability levels, and cultures.
Improved communication skills
In addition to the overall enhancement of skills and growth toward emotional intelligence, the need to communicate in order to collaborate and to inform one another as a project moves forward means that teams have more chances than individuals to practice — and thus improve — both written and oral communication skills. The capacity for open, honest, direct discussion can be enhanced as well, leading to high-level performance — or at least, to all team members being on the same page!
Superior generation of ideas
Working by yourself, you will come up with some ideas. With only your own input and direct responsibility for the ideas, however, you may be loath to present all but the safest concepts to management. In a team brainstorming session, a large quantity of ideas will be generated, many of them novel and even feasible; the creativity factor is magnified. If some ideas are later rejected by management, it is less stigmatising that the team experienced a rejection of its solutions than if an individual had.
Possibility of sharing the workload
A group of people advancing toward a common goal is likely to have greater flexibility for sharing the overall work load than a single person working alone. Given the inevitable demands of projects for multiple skill sets, team members can be delegated tasks which are in line with their strengths and motivated skills (the skills they love to use), as opposed to a single person working alone who may have to outsource some aspects or stumble through them without being able to do them to a high standard. Effective delegation within a team ensures the highest quality of output possible.
At its best, a high-functioning team can be a powerful source of support for its members. As team members learn to help and rely on one another, trust grows, engendering a sense of belonging and willingness to support/be supported by the team. When projects are particularly challenging, the social/emotional support may be crucial for the success of the project. Members look to one another for guidance, enabling a continuing focus on the overall goal. Contrast the possibilities here with a single individual facing big challenges and feeling overwhelmed; such a situation is much more likely to produce irrational decisions.
More complex problems can be taken on
Working together with complementary strengths and skills, team members can tackle problems with far greater complexity than what one individual would dare to take on. As noted above, the greater variety of skill and experience levels of a well-constructed team mean that individual strengths can be exploited and weaknesses (“growing edges”) can be compensated for by others on the team.
Possible reduced assessment load for management
Rather than having to conduct full performance appraisals for each individual team member, high-performing teams can (and should) perform some of that function for each other, thus freeing up management for other tasks. Logically, those working with one another are very well-placed to assess how their colleagues are going, on a variety of levels. This does presume team member skills in giving and receiving high-quality feedback; such skills are necessary in any case for a high-performing team.
Clearly, both organisations and individuals can benefit greatly from participation in solid teamwork. However, teams don’t just spring into existence fully grown — and thus able to function at the optimal levels we just described. Rather, they must get to a high level of functionality by proceeding through several stages of development (framework adapted from Hutton, 2014; De Fazio, Thyer, Koehler, Hains-Wesson, & Tsindos, 2013).
What does it mean to be part of a team? A few quotations…
“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” (Vince Lombardi, football coach)
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” (Henry Ford, pioneer of the auto and assembly-line method)
“It is amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares about who gets the credit.” (Robert Yates, 1700s politician)
“Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.” (Author unknown)
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” (Michael Jordan, former American basketball player and businessman)
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” (Helen Keller (American author/political activist/lecturer and the first deaf/blind person to earn a university degree)
“The strength of the team is each individual member… the strength of each member is the team.” (Phil Jackson, considered to be one of the greatest coaches of the American National Basketball Association)
“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” (Mattie Stepanek, advocate for peace and people with disabilities, who died just before his 14th birthday)
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” (Oprah Winfrey, American television host and philanthropist)
“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” (Casey Stengel, member of baseball hall of fame) (Adapted from Briton, 2014)
This article was adapted from Campus College’s “Career Edge” — a free personal development course designed for those seeking to maximise their career opportunities and set themselves apart.
- Briton, J. (2014). Six essential teamwork skills. Potentials realized (pdf). Retrieved on 25 May, 2016, from: hyperlink.
- De Fazio, T., Thyer, E., Koehler, N., Hains-Wesson, R., & Tsindos, S. (2013). Teamwork. Deakin Learning Futures, Deakin University. Retrieved on 18 May, 2016, from: hyperlink.
- Hutton, L. (2014). Why teamwork is important in the workplace. Australian Institute of Business. Retrieved on 18 May, 2016, from: hyperlink.