Teamwork definition: what does it mean and how to define it

The Hubble Team
The Hubble Team|

Teamwork. Teamwork. Teamwork. Before you know it, you’ll be reciting this word in your sleep and getting it tattooed on your forearm. Every time you ask anyone in the business world for advice about scaling your start up or building on your success, you will hear the same words – it’s all about teamwork. Build great teams – that’s the key to a powerful business. If you can get teams working together and managing themselves, you’re golden. Got it?

But what exactly does teamwork mean? It’s a term constantly bandied about in business like it’s some sort of golden ticket. Say the magic word and you’re in. The truth is that team work isn’t as mysterious and achieve to get as you may think. Humans are social animals and we’ve been working in teams in some form since day dot – from gathering food, to raising families through to playing sports and growing businesses. Without teams, some of us wouldn’t spend our lives in front of the television cheering on our favourite football clubs every weekend. So, what exactly is the key to all of this teamwork?

Let’s break it down.

Teamwork definition: what does it mean and how to define it

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What is teamwork?

Combining individual people’s skills to achieve a shared goal with maximum efficiency. That’s it.

Teamwork definition: what does it mean and how to define it

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Who’s in charge here?

In the industrial age, teamwork was something very different. People were working together, but they were largely following instructions. Managers had control and there wasn’t much collaboration. As more research has been undertaken into what makes a good team, it has become clear that while having a strong leader is important, everyone in the group must feel that they are playing a role.

Of course, having too many people thinking they’re in charge is just as bad as having no leadership at all. Sometimes you still hear the saying, ‘a camel is a horse designed by a committee’, or even ‘too many cooks spoil the broth.’ When teamwork fails it can result in big disasters for businesses, as too many people try to control the direction of projects and the daily management of the business. Without good communication, trust, a clear objective and excellent management, business teams just will not survive.

So what makes a good team?

Teamwork definition: what does it mean and how to define it

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If you take a look at great business teams of today you will see that they are a source of creativity and innovation. The savvy leader deliberately chooses team members that have different backgrounds and complementary strengths. Put this all together and you have an opportunity for spirited debate and great ideas. This is far better than being surrounded by ‘yes-men’ where no change or development is possible.

When teams feel they have a voice and their ideas are important to the business, you get increased ownership. When you let team members bring their authentic selves to work and be part of the decision making process, they’ll feel empowered. Ownership is the holy grail of motivation.

When teamwork is truly effective, you’ll find that the members are united behind a common purpose. As a business leader, you’re clear why your business exists and how it will benefit society and when your team believes in this vision and becomes purpose-driven, your business will flourish.

What are the major benefits of teamwork?

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When you have a highly motivated team who are excited to come to work every day, you’re more likely to have a lower staff turnover – definitely a plus as who wants to spend costly time on recruitment. A nightmare for any business, particularly for a small start-up, is losing people who walk out with a wealth of knowledge in their heads.

The more a team works together, the more their teamwork improves. It makes sense, right? When your team knows each other better, they understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Even if it’s just knowing who’s a morning person and who should be left alone with their coffee for an hour or two before being approached. Team members grow to trust each other, and communication improves.

Over time, team members can also learn more about each other’s jobs and cross-skill. This is great when you have people off sick or on leave, because there’s an overlap, and other team members can jump in for each other.

With great teamwork, your productivity will increase. Brainstorming sessions will be more creative. Different points of view will improve decision making by exploring a range of options.

The million dollar question – how do you achieve this level of teamwork?

Teamwork definition: what does it mean and how to define it

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It all starts with recruitment.

You know your company goals and what you’re trying to achieve, so you also know what skills you need in order to deliver your product or service to your clients. Having a clear idea of your culture is critical when you’re employing staff. Say, for example, you want to be the hardest working start-up and need people to work 12-hour days when you’re really busy. If your existing team is already in this work-mode and understand these flexible working hours, this would be an important point to raise at recruitment stage.

Get the team involved in recruiting the new members.

You probably already have a good vibe in the office, and you don’t want to lose that. If you want good teamwork, why not get everyone involved in the recruitment process?  Speed interviews – a bit like speed dating – work well. Fun group discussions are also effective.

Train staff and set clear roles.

Once your team is in place, the group can agree who is good at what and who’ll be responsible for which areas. Each member of the team should know what is expected (of themselves and of other members) and how they’ll be measured. Provide regular feedback to everyone about how the team is progressing as well as individual strengths and weaknesses. Avoid using a ‘telling’ management style. Rather, provide an outcome and let the team decide how to get there. If you trust them and encourage them, or guide them when they need it, they’ll work it out.

Teamwork definition: what does it mean and how to define it

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Communicate clearly and often

Two-way communication with a team is critical if you want to achieve your business goals. Share successes and solve problems together and take time out for team building (or visiting the pub) so that the bonds are strengthened even further. Make sure everyone is fully informed as to how the business is progressing – they’ll want to know which new clients are being approached, be aware of when important pitches are taking place, and they can help when new products or services are being explored. Clear communication will keep everyone in the office happy and more productive in their daily tasks.

Resolve any conflicts

Unfortunately, teams are made up of human beings so, of course, there’ll be dramas. Teamwork relies on cooperation, so a falling out can be a big deal. Ideally, the team will be able to resolve difficulties themselves however sometimes you may need to play King Solomon and help in mediating the situation. Either way, get any issues sorted as soon as possible.

So, let’s build a team!

Teamwork definition: what does it mean and how to define it

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While it may seem daunting at first, building a strong team can be a fun and satisfying task and it can lead to great success for your business. If you can get teamwork right through combining a great mix of people, offering sufficient training, setting clear targets, and having a strong sense of purpose, you’re on your way to making a success out of your business.

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