April 2008Teamwork is defined as a cooperative effort between people in which individual interests are set aside for achievement of the common goal. It combines expertise to explore problems and conflicts and to develop solutions for everyone’s mutual benefit.
A team is a group of high energy people who are individually different with diverse skills who blend together to achieve a common goal.
The question may arise: "Why teamwork?” By implementing the team concept, the following benefits accrue for the organization:
• By using a collection of team member talents, quality decisions are the result.
• By involving people from different functions to solve problems, we are combining ideas to come up with the best solution.
• Involving people in decision-making increases employee morale and job satisfaction.
• Synergy is created through the combined effort of team members, which produces results greater than individual effort.
What do leaders have to do to develop a team organization? They need to do the following to make teamwork a reality:
Envision. They have to be visionaries. Rise above the status quo and look for better and more productive ways to achieve desired results.
Unite. They convince people how working together spurs innovation, improves productivity and makes people feel like important contributors to the success of the organization. By being united, people are able to express their individuality.
Empower. Leaders demonstrate to people that through teamwork, risks are encouraged, new processes are developed and practical procedures are put in place. They give people the "green light” for innovation and experimentation so that the collective ideas can be tested before being set aside.
Explore. Collaboration becomes the strategy for solving problems and looking for better ways to do things. Opposing views are discussed openly and directly so that practical, useful solutions can be developed and implemented.
Reflect. How can we improve? Are we as effective as we could be? Organizations don’t want to get "stuck in the mud.” Accepting the status quo is not the correct policy. Reflection requires measuring how well we’re doing. When the organization is not getting better, it’s time for the team to explore better ways of achieving desired results.
If managers and supervisors want to build teamwork, they must understand that the process of change requires patience. It becomes necessary to move away from a culture where managers think they have all the answers, make all the decisions and tell people what to do. They begin to understand that building a team organization requires developing genuine relationships in a give-and-take atmosphere.
We must also keep in mind that leaders are at the center of creating a team organization. They must be empowered to challenge the status-quo while overhauling obsolete practices. Then a leader can empower others to make a difference. Issues must be explored thoroughly through the encouragement of diverse opinions. Opposing views can then be assembled into workable solutions. To make this happen, leaders must use the following strategies:
• Bring together people with diverse backgrounds, expertise, outlooks and functional experience—these people are likely to disagree.
• Establish a basic rule: All ideas and views are encouraged, not rejected. There will be no repercussions for negative feedback.
• Listening must occur. Everyone should pay attention and listen attentively to what each person is saying. Acquire understanding through effective questioning.
• Collect pertinent information by probing for underlying causes to problems.
• Investigate when confusion arises about an issue.
• Show respect to all individuals on the team. Critique the idea, not the person.
• Consider and review all ideas. Use as many thoughts that contribute to the common goal or create a totally useful solution.
If you want to strengthen your organization through continuous improvement, the team approach is the way to go. Teamwork is successful because people want and need to be a part of something larger than themselves. People also feel the need to be respected by others. Teamwork provides the personal connection to others that we seek, and allows us to feel accepted as key members of the team. Only then can we face the challenge of growth and accomplish extraordinary things with ordinary people.
Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.