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All sorts of tasks become easier — and faster — through teamwork. More than speed or ease, though, big or complex projects require teamwork. It isn't a choice.
Working together enables us to tackle big projects and audacious goals that just wouldn't be possible alone. Effective teamwork empowers us to reach our goals and have far more impact.
Teamwork stretches far beyond making the best snow fort or carrying the heaviest objects. But not everyone sees the value and benefits that a group of people working together can accomplish.
But what is teamwork, and how you can encourage a collaborative atmosphere in the workplace?
What is teamwork?
Teamwork happens when people work together toward a common goal. That goal could be professional or personal. You can work as a team to move a couch up a flight of stairs, launch a work project, or play soccer.
Defining teamwork is simple, but understanding how to work well as a team can be complicated. Becoming an effective high-performing team takes practice. And guidance.
What teamwork means to you might be different for your teammates. What teamwork looks like also depends a lot on the nature of your work and what types of challenges you face. Not every type of work needs or benefits from teamwork.
One key to a successful team: When individuals realize that working together on a project is more effective than working alone. Teams are effective when they aren't just dividing up tasks and working independently to get them done faster. Great teamwork is about working together and collaborating to come up with better approaches.
You know that you have the right teamwork for the job when your team delivers better outcomes than any one person could on their own. Achieving a goal is often easier when tasks are done cooperatively rather than relying on each individual’s singular efforts.
An entire team operates best when each team member works collaboratively but still brings their own perspective and experiences and uses their own set of skills.
Let’s say a team goal is developing a great new poster that advertises the company’s product. One group of people could be responsible for the graphics, while others could write the slogan. A third person might determine where to display the poster. The goal is shared, but the tasks are individual.
4 benefits of teamwork
It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting in your new work environment or if you are the team leader or manager. Everyone gains when effective teams are in place.
Here are four different benefits that effective teamwork can bring to your work environment:
1. A source of motivation and inspiration
As team members start to work together, they’ll see how it boosts productivity. Teams may meet milestones with greater ease than individuals. Seeing success can motivate others to stick with their goals, even if they encounter challenges.
2. More productive conflict management
With effective teamwork comes more open communication. It's not about smooth conflict resolution so much as working with friction in respectful, productive ways.
To complete shared goals, team members have to bring together diverse viewpoints and build on them. They have to challenge each other's assumptions. Sometimes they have to compromise. Problem-solving is ongoing. Teams develop strong conflict management skills to avoid lingering issues and tension.
3. More meaningful team development
Working as a team allows people to get to know each other’s skills, personalities, and areas of expertise. Developing these connections leads to a stronger, more developed team. Professional relationships may flourish, and people may discover opportunities for mentoring.
4. Bigger goals
Effective teamwork proves that a team can do great things, and with that comes an expansion of their goals. A successful team won’t stay stagnant for long. Managers will be motivated to set new team goals. And, employees of all levels will want to challenge themselves and expand their own skill sets.
Find someone to help you stay accountable for setting your goals. BetterUp can provide the accountability you need to plan, organize, and execute your goals.
What are the characteristics of successful teamwork?
You’ve all heard someone called a poor team player — but sometimes you can look at a team and sense that they don’t work together that well. We aren’t talking about the characteristics that dictate a team’s performance, but rather, signs that point toward a team truly working together effectively. You can see these dynamics on sports teams or friendly trivia groups, too.
Here are six characteristics to help you know if you’re working well as a team:
- The leadership style in your work environment is full of fair decision-making and effective communication
- Members of the team feel confident contributing their ideas and skills
- Feedback is welcome, not discouraged
- It’s not a complete disaster if someone makes a mistake because others are there to support them and help the entire team learn
- People are patient, especially with team members who are learning new or early teamwork skills
Why is teamwork so important in the workplace?
Teamwork is important in every workplace. In-person, virtual, or hybrid environments mixing remote and in-person all thrive on teamwork. Working collaboratively is the only way to achieve a team’s shared goals.
A great team is always getting better.
A good team can do the same work over and over like a well-oiled machine. A great team never gets to be efficient because they get tapped by leadership to take on all of the new, interesting challenges. A great team is always learning and evolving its practices.
Think about a disorganized team, out of touch with their responsibilities, and refusing to work together. Reaching goals would be impossible.
The importance of teamwork stretches beyond productivity, too. When you’re part of an effective team, you feel valued for your contributions and your employee experience is better. You get to do meaningful work that has an impact. Not only do you feel appreciated, but work that has meaning also boosts your commitment and well-being.
How to promote teamwork in your job
Some teams don’t see the value in teamwork right away. Perhaps they’ve been sticking to one routine for a long time and aren’t interested in changing. But as an entry-level employee, an experienced or established employee, or even a team leader, you can turn that around. Everyone can help build an environment that appreciates and uses teamwork as best they can.
Here are five ways you can promote teamwork in your job:
- Celebrate people’s wins and recognize milestones and contributions in a positive, encouraging way
- Ask others, “What does teamwork mean to you?” and build a system that fosters the type of teamwork that matters for your company
- Develop strong communication skills for self-managed teams
- Be inclusive and make sure that everyone can bring their full talents to the work to be done
- Learn what team members are good at and play to their skill sets
3 team-building exercises for the workplace
Here are three exercises that you and your team members can do to lay down the groundwork for good teamwork in the future:
1. Two truths and a lie
Each team member writes down two true facts about them and one lie. Everyone takes turns saying all three statements, and the rest of the team has to guess which one is a lie.
This can be an excellent way to get to know one another and inject some fun into the team dynamic. By encouraging people to be a little vulnerable and to see each other as whole people, you lay the groundwork for better team communication. It might even provide a good conversation topic for you to connect over later.
This activity is easy to do over video, too, if your office is fully remote. Just remember to lay a few ground rules, e.g., not sharing overly personal information and not taking these stories beyond the team meeting. Team icebreakers are supposed to be fun, not therapy.
2. Introduce new sharing platforms
It’s important to make sure that your team members have a solid platform for where they do all of their sharing and communicating. Chat programs like Slack provide a space to communicate and collaborate with ease. But don’t forget that these platforms can be for fun, too. Encourage your team members to share things that aren’t work-focused when it’s appropriate to do so.
Introduce fun channels like #pets to Slack so that people can share their furry friends. Or, every Friday, ask your team members to share something that made them laugh for the week in a #WeeklyLaughs channel. It can be a way to get to know your team members outside of a work context — especially if your team works entirely remotely.
3. Picture piece game
Find a picture and cut it into smaller, uneven pieces to create your own puzzle. Your team members will have to work together and put their problem-solving skills to the test to piece the picture back together. The bigger the picture, the more organized they must be to solve the puzzle.
You might find that someone is naturally inclined to project management because of an instinct to coordinate this effort. (You can make this remote, too, by emailing everyone their piece and making them talk to each other to find similarities in their photo).
Hearing different viewpoints and using other people’s skills can help us do our jobs better. But what teamwork isn’t about is competing against each other. Instead, you should appreciate what everyone offers.
It takes effort to develop a team into one that values teamwork. Along the way, it can help to have support as you encourage others to adopt a more collaborative working style.
With BetterUp, you’ll learn to develop the skills you need to organize and guide your team members to feel confident in their collaborative skills.
Vice President of Alliance Solutions