Teamwork makes Dreamwork
These days, the ability to work well in a team is as in demand by employers as a high school diploma, or so it would seem. Application after application, interview after interview repeatedly references ‘teamwork’- and the importance of this undefined concept. But what makes teamwork so special? And why do you, as a candidate for a job or a current employee, require the ability to work well in a team?
There are many answers to this question, but the most common and obvious one would be that working in a team is often much more efficient than working independently. If you have the ability to cooperate with others, then you and your team can combine your skills, and thrive by maximizing your collective potential. If you’re working alone, then there will always be gaps in your knowledge, or things you cannot do. However, when you work in a team, you suddenly have a range of people who all have different strengths, and you can combine these talents to tackle most if not all problems. As Brandon Gaille reminds us:
Teamwork is all about “Coming together, sharing together, working together, succeeding together”.
How you function in a team dynamic also gives employers an insight into your personality. If you have the ability to interact kindly with others, and have the willingness to give and receive help- then you’re more than likely a trustworthy employee, who will minimize workplace tension. Employers who claim to look for ‘teammates’ or ‘team players’ are really just looking for individuals who have the social skills to interact with others and the capacity to learn from them. In fact, much like the expression “Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates” reminds us, teamwork is all about helping others. And this is a quality that most if not all organizations necessitate in their employees.
What makes a teammate?
Not everyone thrives in team or group scenarios. Some people, especially those who have more introverted personalities, believe that they can accomplish most when they work alone. Does this mean that they’re unemployable? Of course not. Teamwork, and the ability to cooperate with others, isn’t innate. You can learn how to work with others, and you can refine your skills, in order to maximize your independent potential (as well as that of your group). It’s important that you do so, regardless of whether you feel it will have an immediate effect on you or not, because working in a team will undoubtedly benefit you in the longterm- and increase your chances of success.
The easiest way to thrive in team dynamic is to follow a simple set of guidelines, which are extensively described in an article by Leadership One. In a nutshell, however, the key to working in a team is trust. Not only do you have to learn to trust others, and believe that you don’t always know best- but you also have to earn the trust of your colleagues, and demonstrate your reliability. Trust is the foundation of a team that can take risks, and bet their success on the talents of each member. It’s important that teams have the ability to do this, as not being able to rely on each other in uncertain times could lead to missed chances and wasted opportunities.
Being able to take risks also necessitates courage, and demonstrating your confidence is key to succeeding in a team. Great teamwork relies on each member being comfortable in demonstrating their true abilities, and having the confidence to contribute their opinion or voice to team discussions. Much like Leadership One points out, “Challenging ideas is a critical part of developing the best alternatives”. This means that if only one member of a team has the confidence to speak out, then the team will always follow that one person’s reasoning, despite the fact that other teammates may have a better alternative or more appropriate solution.
What makes a good teammate?
If you saw yourself in the guidelines we listed above, then this means that you’re already a team player. However, there’s a difference between being able to work in a team- and being able to thrive in a team that works to the best of its ability and to the highest performance. Regardless of your sociability or your cooperation, there’s always room for improvement, and many sources cite the importance of refining your skills- in order to increase the productivity of your team.
In fact, an article by Price Pritchett puts high quality communication at the top of the list. It states that refining your personal communication skills, and thereby improving on the interactions of your team, is the first step in increasing the performance of your group. No good team is complete without the ability to communicate flawlessly. Members who are able to interact with each other naturally and comfortably will be able to execute a plan much more successfully than those who can not share information as easily.
Similarly, if teammates can communicate efficiently, then they should all be able to understand and assign each other roles within the team. Knowing your responsibilities with your group is essential to ensuring that a team remains calm and cohesive. If all teammates have clearly defined roles, and specific tasks that are tailored to fit their personality and skills, then this could significantly reduce friction within a team. Teams that are disorganized, and don’t consider the individual needs of each member, could result in failure- as result of competition and perhaps even jealousy.
Price Pritchett also highlights the importance of sacrifice within a team. Regardless of how well you work in a team, you aren’t a good team player until you are willing to sacrifice your needs or feelings for the greater good. If an opportunity arises for you to thrive, but you know that letting someone else do so would result in a better outcome, then you should be able to accept this reality. Teams are reliant on each member committing themselves to the greater good, and this is nicely summed up by the expression “I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion”.
How can I become a great team leader?
An infographic by Mashable draws attention to an important part of every team- the team leader. While teams should share worth and praise among every member, ideally the majority of the authority should fall with the team leader. Team leaders should be able to understand each member of their team on a personal level, and assign them tasks that are compatible with their personality and skill set. Likewise, team leaders should have the ability to make informed decisions, and use their power wisely. You cannot succeed as a leader, if you do not accept the responsibility of making decisions based on the collective opinion of your group- and accept democratic outcomes as often as possible. If your team has voted on one general consensus, then try your best to respect this. Your job as a leader is to lead, and not to overpower.
Mashable also highlights the importance of delegating, by stating that proper delegation is part of “the genetic structure of high performance teams”. Delegating in a team is key, and this job falls primarily to the team leader. This links back to the importance of knowing the strengths of your team members, and understanding their roles within a group dynamic, because both of these are key to correctly delegating.
So what do we mean by “good delegating”? Well, imagine this scenario. You’re in a high pressure situation, your team is struggling to meet the demands or the expectations. You know what work you need to prioritize, but you also know that the other work you’ve assigned yourself is crucial. So what do you do? You delegate it to another teammate, whose work is less essential. If the pressure is building, you delegate and delegate to the right candidates (who perhaps are better equipped to deal with pressure than others), until you have a complete chain of operation that covers all bases. If you know the limit of each of your teammates, and you know who thrives best under which circumstances- then the delegating becomes even easier. Suddenly, you have this natural instinct, and you have the most efficient chain of command!
Delegating, however, is just one of the skills you need to refine as a team leader. Mashable’s infographic also briefly touches on inspiration, and the need for team leaders to inspire their team. Morale is key to a successful team, as all members need to feel motivated and inspired to accomplish their goals. There are a huge number of motivating slogans used by team leaders and members of authority alike, that can instill passion and desire in team members. The expression, “Together we stand, together we fall. All for one and one for all!” for example, is an effective way to inspire your team members- while instilling camaraderie.
As we previously discussed, trust is important in a team. And when teams establish trust in each other, then they develop a sense of unity. This is something that, as a team leader, you must be able to inspire. You need to create a team that feels bonded together, and has a family like dynamic. Teams that are unified, and inspired, will exhibit much more loyalty than teams who disregard the needs of their mates and view each member as separate entities. When teams become one, then they become a much more powerful force to the outside world. As the slogan “United we play. United we win.” reminds us: unity is key to winning.
“Surrender the ME for the WE”: Why Teammates Should Work Towards The Greater Good
If there’s one, final thing you should remember about teamwork- is that there really “is no I in Teamwork”. And what we mean by that, is that if you want your or your team to thrive, then you have to remember that no team should be based on the personal gain of any individual member. If you genuinely believe in furthering yourself or your career, regardless of the suffering or accomplishments of others, then you aren’t a team player. Because team players must have the ability to set aside their desires, and sacrifice their opportunities for selfish gain, in an effort to achieve more for everyone. After all, “There is no limit to what you can accomplish when nobody cares who gets the credit”.
However, if this doesn’t appeal to you- consider this. Your teammates, regardless of the environment or the endgame, are people who share common values with you. They want to accomplish the “dreamwork” that you do, and they want to achieve the same level of success that you do. Teamwork is the ideal, because it can maximize the outcome for everyone involved- meaning that everyone wins. What’s more, in the process of working together and achieving your collective goal, you could make some lifelong friends. While this may seem unlikely, it’s important to keep in mind the accurate expression “You might forget the plays, the shots, and the scores, but you’ll never forget your teammates.”. Because after all, who would forget a group of people who trust each other; communicate effectively; delegate appropriately and sacrifice their gain for the greater good?