By Terry Budget


We’ve heard the old adage, “Teamwork makes the dream work”, however, this is only a cliché and not always to the betterment of the company. Some situations are better left to the assignment of one individual. In my experience of 21 years in the Army, the need to have a team that works in cohesion is necessary to accomplish most tasks. Still, a team may not have the skillset of one person.

Regardless of the assignment, I find that even though teams may become strong because of each person’s contribution, there are some who may disagree with how a task is being performed and can potentially sabotage the desired outcome for personal reasons.

Teams are not right for every situation, however, most tasks in organizations are based on team interdependency. What does this mean? Individuals and departments rely on the interactivity and engagement of other individuals and departments for information, resources, and support in efforts to accomplish work. Regardless of the interactions from external departments and the conflicts teams may have with them, some teams deal with internal conflicts such as people hating the idea of working with others.

There are three primary problems teams face when they are comprised and are made to work together? They are:

· Independence – When workers or managers become part of a team, their success in contingent upon the team’s success. For this reason, some individuals frown upon team concepts because it takes away the spotlight from their own actions, initiative, and creativity. While some leaders and managers are comfortable with sacrificing personal accolades for the greater good, others are not because teamwork demands that sacrifices be made for the team’s success. This perspective in most corporations, especially Fortune 500 companies is to place the team first and the individual second.

· Freeloader – Teams deal with members who have a less than stellar work ethic and a personal agenda. Their perspective is to obtain benefits of being on a productive team, yet contribute little if anything to the group’s task. If you’ve worked with a team in any capacity, you may have encountered the one individual who seems to be present, but non-active. Yet, when it is time to be recognized, they are always in the front.

My experience in multiple organizations around the world has taught me that most team members have no problem with working on a team, but the intent is usually for the purpose of learning from others as oppose to working with them to complete the task.

· Dysfunctional – Although having a dynamic team can bring an organization great success, there are also examples of teams that fail in major ways. This dysfunction is primarily based on how teams are managed. Further, the leader of the team bears the brunt of their failure in several ways; lack of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, lack of accountability, and poor results. Even when teams present good cohesion, not every independent member is good for that team.

Organizational functions have become complex and as a result, the leader cannot make all decisions on their own. For this reason, it is perhaps better to have distributed leadership so that team decision are made by layers of self-directed teams. Smart leaders build and empower smart teams to be more effective than others. These teams possess certain characteristics that embody greatness. They are:

· Led by high performing leaders – Leaders give their teams the authority to make decisions and ensures that the members understand their specific role on the team while adhering to the ground rules set by the organization.

· Members acting like leaders – Members assume responsibility for their roles and exert influence to accomplish tasks. They welcome constructive feedback from their counterparts as a means of holding each other accountable for their actions.

· Protocols – Ambiguity destroys productive teamwork. They achieve great performance because everyone is clear about the end result, what each person will contribute, and how each one will engage the others based on set standards of behavior.

· Ambitious attitude – Effective teams are self-monitoring, self-evaluating, and always set the bar to a higher level to challenge themselves. They maintain the attitude of how can they make things better.

· Management systems – Recognition and rewards of the organization should be comparable to the success of the team’s goals. Teams drive harder and perform higher when they know the work they do is acknowledged.

Effective teams don’t just happen. Leaders take focused and deliberate actions to help the best-qualified people come together and work collaboratively. Leaders understand that effective teamwork happens over time. They grow in phases and not all will develop at the same time. Leaders know that you have to look at teams like a jigsaw puzzle. The wrong piece in the wrong place will not create the right result. Teamwork makes the dream work when all the pieces are in the right place.



Written by Terry Budget

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