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What is teamwork?

July 22, 2016


Ask a group of managers this question, and you're likely to hear something along the lines of "the team output is greater than the sum of all the individual parts."


Whilst undoubtedly true, this is the outcome of teamwork, it does not define teamwork. As teamworking facilitators, we are often met with all sorts of muddled, woolly and unclear answers that leave respondents very uncertain themselves about what teamwork really is. We may hear things like 'common goals', 'colleagues looking out for each other', 'going the extra mile', etc.


Let's consider for a moment:


  • If 'common goal' is the answer, why do football 'teams' get relegated or under perform in highly visible tournaments such as the Euros? They all surely want to win; common goal?

  • If 'looking out for each other' were the answer, what about those high performing teams where people perform well despite actively disliking each other?

  • If 'going the extra mile' were the answer, why is it that people don't get the same results as high performing teams just by racking up overtime? (Probably, by the way, because you cannot sustain this for a long period of time, so quality of output suffers and you burn out.)


My point is this, most managers have no idea what makes a team really bond together. I am sure you have heard people say "let's do an outdoor team building activity together and challenge ourselves (or make fools of ourselves)", or "let's do a social activity together to enable us to develop teamwork and, most importantly, team spirit."


No, no, no, NO!!!


If you force people to do things they don't want to do, not only will they hate the experience, they'll see it as a trial rather than an experience that will bond them together.


So what is teamwork? Well, it starts with team spirit; team spirit comes from knowing you are there for the same reason as the next person. Wales' foootball team have grown up together and so know each other, and they know why they want to play for Wales (which appears to be the same for them all).


Step 1 in building a team is this:


What is the common purpose for everyone in the team? For example, if you all like going to the pub after work and enjoy that environment, then it is something you have in common. If some people don't like going to the pub, then it's not common and will be recognised as such; that activity will never foster team spirit.


In a past experience helping a team to grow and develop, we found that helping people and learning were the two things that a team of eight people had in common, and why they turned up for work. Now that's common purpose; after we were able to help them find this out, you could feel the team become perceptibly closer and their results consequently improved.


For further insights into how to build teams and what to look out for, come back and read our next blogs.

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