We all have experience working in a team in the workplace, on the sports field, or in a social setting. From these experiences, we all know the signs of poorly functioning teams: weak cohesion, poor communication, low trust, and missed milestones. Not to mention the lack of fun and celebration. On the flipside, there’s something to be said for a team operating in the “zone”—when work becomes effortless, supportive, constructive, and incredibly satisfying. So exactly why does teamwork matter and what can be done to make it happen?
Why is teamwork important in the workplace?
Exactly why is teamwork important in the workplace? A healthy team provides benefits for the individual, the organization, and society as a whole:
When an individual is seen as a contributing member of a team he/she feels appreciated and derives intangible benefits such as feelings of self-worth, happiness, and contentment. This provides stimulation, a sense of achievement, and intellectual learning.
The organization benefits from the high productivity that teamwork delivers. Healthy teams mean engaged employees and a vibrant workplace culture. It also means people are interacting more, which helps work get done efficiently and stimulates innovation.
Society gains a tremendous boost by having healthy people and corporations contributing their time and energy to the greater good through volunteerism, community events, and building supportive infrastructure.
Can we afford not to enable excellent, skilled teamwork in organizations today?
How to enable teamwork in the workplace
Teamwork does not happen on its own. It needs to be catalyzed, becoming part of workplace culture and integral to people, processes and culture. Once that happens, workplaces become more fun, productive, and creative.
Here are seven ways to enable teamwork in the workplace. Brainstorming is not one of them.
Divide up the work
Teamwork does not mean everyone does everything together. It requires getting organized and breaking each project down into its component parts. Then sorting out who will do what, according to their expertise, interest, and availability. A good project manager will help with this, but if not just head to the whiteboard as a group.
Ask for help
Getting work done requires time to focus on your own task, and the option to draw on others when you need it. That’s teamwork. So when you need inspiration, expertise or support, ask for it.
Work out loud
So your team is organized and you’re heads-down on your own task. Time to start working out loud. That’s critical for your team to stay connected as the project proceeds. Find quick ways to let those around you know what you’ve discovered, what mini-milestones you just passed, or what problem you’re struggling with. Overcome poor internal communications with a regular ‘standup’ meeting where everyone provides a quick informal update of where they are at can be a game changer here.
Share a prototype
When you ask teammates for input in an open-ended way, don’t expect much. People are busy in the workplace and don’t know where to start. Instead share a draft or sketch — a prototype or outline of where you are headed. Don’t polish this; your colleagues will be much more comfortable building on, and suggesting alternatives to, things they know you’re not overly invested in. That’s collaborative teamwork at its best.
Build in a review process
Review meetings can make a huge difference. They do two things—they bring a particular plan or design or report into clear focus, and they provide an ‘open season’ when it becomes polite to critique the team’s work. Encourage people to take a ‘devil’s advocate’ role and question things from all angles. Doing this at the concept stage will bring the team into detailed alignment and often catch requirements that would otherwise get missed.
Rally to a common goal
If you want to be a team, you need to share a common goal. What is the grand goal you’re striving for? How does achieving the next milestone contribute to that? Where does each teammate’s contribution fit in? Knowing your work matters takes teamwork to the next level.
Appreciate the work of your teammates. Take time to say ‘thanks’ for small, specific contributions to the team effort. And when you do achieve a milestone towards your goal, take time to celebrate together.
At Jostle we spend a lot of time thinking about teams: how they interact, what impact they have, and what can encourage and facilitate the creation of highly engaged, effective teams. Our engaging intranet platform makes teamwork easy. Key teamwork enabling features include Discussions (instant messaging), Shout-Outs (simple real time recognition), and News (the go-to place to share stories and celebrate successes). We've designed our intranet to make workplaces better - which among other things, means happy, engaged individuals contributing to amazing team efforts.