I just read Skip Weisman’s blog about the “Myth of Teamwork” and was impressed. Not because I think teamwork is a myth, but because it’s high time someone took a look at why teamwork isn’t successful many times.
It is because individual team members fail.
However, I think that Skip misses the fact that teamwork is more than just the actions associated with working as part of a team. It is a culture, a mindset, a way of working and winning together, not just as individuals.
But it does start with individuals.
The Problem of Teamwork in Certain Cultures
A teamwork mindset requires confidence in others. Continual failure by fellow team members creates a disincentive to rely on someone else, the very foundation of teamwork.
Therefore, for it to be effective, members of the team must do their work effectively and earn the trust of their peers. Otherwise, people resort to depending on themselves primarily (“it’s faster if I do it myself” mentality), a fatal blow not just to the concept of teamwork, but delegation and collaboration as well.
Organizations that hire great people and teach those great people to understand and trust each other, incubate more than just a teamwork culture.
They incubate success.
On the flip side, teamwork is a joke in organizations that hire sloppy people and then allow poor performance to continue, while at the same time preaching that people need to work together. The second part of teamwork is “work”, and it needs to be done well for teamwork to succeed. Otherwise, they’d be better off letting their few “All Stars” do the process or project themselves, rather than introducing broken cogs into the system.
I can’t count how many times leaders in organizations I’ve assisted have lost focus on cleaning up poor individual work performances, and have instead brought in consultants to help do fruitless team building exercises.
Without individual success, teamwork is indeed a waste of time.
One Idea for Team Building
We have to listen to our staff and actively seek their feedback. If your team is dysfunctional, it’s time to ask your team why. When dealing with team problems, I always start by interviewing everyone involved and asking what the problem is.
Nine times out of ten, they have the answer already figured out. They almost always know if they should trust their teammates to finish their part correctly, and encouraging them to “work together” is frustrating and pointless.
For true team building, leaders must hold their individual team members to a high standard first (build trust in performance), then help them see the excellence they each bring to a project (understanding). Only at that point will the handoffs be smooth, the communication open, and synergies will begin to appear.
Have an excellent night,