Teamwork – From Theory to Practice

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How many of us are asked in interviews whether or not we are team players? The question could be sometimes embedded, disguised and stated as “would you rather work as part of a team or work on your own?” It is very important to be a team player. Be it a small team of 3 or 4 or bigger teams compiling of over 10 employees. We’re all different and a manager shall not expect to hire employees who are carbon copies of each other assuming that this way he/she will be creating an efficient team! The diversity in teams creates the definitive flavor and harmony necessary to achieve a common goal together. So, what it is that makes a team act in sync towards a common objective?

Teamwork is a word that we all hear in trainings, workshops, seminars and meetings. But what does it really mean? Subjectively, I would define teamwork as: “The ability of diverse personalities with different work styles to communicate and work together in a friendly and effective manner towards a common goal for the overall well being of the organization.” The previously mentioned definition may somehow appear generic and require some elaboration of some practical steps that can be established and followed so as to be part of a successful team. The steps are:

Leadership Approach: The team’s leader takes time to communicate to the whole team the expectation of working together collaboratively. This task needs to be part of the annual appraisal and all the team’s members should understand the value of the work that will be produced when they function as a whole.

Rewarding Teamwork: Teamwork has to be rewarded! If any employee performs a work activity that gets rewarded, why would he/she not repeat it over and over? It is the small rewards that drive team members to act cohesively within the team and even walk extra miles to receive more rewards.

–  Fostering a Culture that values Teamwork: Team members shall not take credit for the work of other team members. There is no competition between the team members and rather all the team members work together towards one goal shared and communicated between them.

The aforementioned steps are just the tip of the ice berg. There are so many other work related activities that can be done. There are also other non-work related activities that can be included like arranging for a team building activity on a weekend outside business premises. This helps the team come together and understand that it is not just the offices that join them together and they can also go to an outdoor space to work together. The best thing about team building activities is that they can be tailored and personalized to address the specific points that require improvement within the team. It would also help to take photos of the team while performing the team building activity in a non-formal dress code and perhaps hang those photos in the manager’s office. This would really show the subordinates how much their manager values their working as one hand simply because being a team does not only happen during office hours and inside business premises.

For some of us, you may feel that sometimes you are left out, disappointed or alienated or maybe the team lead is not investing enough time to help the team in being one hand. This is not the end of it! There are some other miles that can be walked individually by team members detached from their manager to promote a teamwork environment. The steps will not be made in opposition to a manager’s directive or an organizational trend, but would rather be more of an individual effort coming from a self motivated employee who wants to be part of an effective team. Among the many steps that can be made, consider the below for example:

Be personal: This does not mean getting too involved in other people’s lives in a way that makes them uncomfortable. But, consider asking your team members about their health, their children, spouses, siblings, what plans they have for weekends, what advice they can give you about shopping for a particular product, etc. This helps in breaking the ice and providing personal credit between you and your team members that would really pay off when going through professionally stressful times.

– Eat lunch: It is rather basic, just take your lunch breaks together! It may take some time to promote this thought, but it truly helps. This would give you all a chance to catch up on your work week and share with each other what you may have been busy doing, and who knows? Maybe this will be a chance to re-organize the work load when your team members realize that one of you is overloaded and the rest have more time on their plates.

– Remember birthdays: This point works like magic! Find a way to document your team’s birthdays and arrange for a cake to be there on their birthday. Everybody is extra fragile on their birthday for a reason or another. So, who could ever say ‘no’ to a cake on their birthday? It would really put a smile on their faces and make them happy to take photos with other members of the team.

Enough could never be said about teamwork! It is definitely not a one man’s show and it does not happen overnight. It could take months to be able to change how the team functions together and it surely works best when it comes from everyone on the team. Stop complaining about not being part of a team and not feeling that you have a strong base that you can count on. Go ahead! Be the change that you would like to see and begin with yourself. The most important thing about establishing a culture of teamwork is always to remember to say ‘thank you’, the smallest rewards really count. It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.

Regina Inani

Human Resources Development Specialist

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