During a course on teamwork, I once asked what the difference between group and team was, as they are two different ways of spending time with others.
To define the former, most thought of a group of friends that spend time together, often having fun, but more frequently just hanging out by chance or out of habit.
By reflecting together on the meaning of team, we found ourselves talking about sport, and we came up with the perfect metaphor for a team in the context of business. Let’s have a look at the three cornerstones that turn a “simple” group into a real team.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
1. Having a common goal
The first element of a team is that everyone is “playing” to achieve a clear and shared goal.
Teamwork means making use of your time, your energy, and your skills to achieve something that isn’t only significant for the individual, but for the entire organisation.
The word “objective” comes from the Latin obiectum, which means to place in front of you, to throw ahead, and by extension “the purpose or the goal to achieve in an activity or in a company”.
If a common objective is lacking, the members of the team work subjectively and will lack cohesion, control, and the chance of assessing the results of their activities. The outcome will be chaos, and both the individual and the organisation will lose valuable resources.
Having a clear destination allows us to establish the route to follow, like a lighthouse at night that guides us towards the harbour.
The team leader, just like a coach, chooses the team members and knows how to value each member according to their skills. A leader can also motivate them through the power of communication and can convey their vision, generating cohesion and momentum for the tasks ahead. The team members, in turn, take personal responsibility for their role and for the skills they make use of to contribute to the common project. Each member’s contribution becomes a precious element for the creation and the expansion of value in the company. This isn’t the simple sum of all the individual elements, but it’s the awareness that each individual action enables and strengthens the following “link” in the chain; in other words, it helps your colleague, your collaborator, or your teammate.
Collaborating means feeling part of a bigger goal and knowing that each action affects others.
Organisational climate is generated by the number of relations that exist within the team, where everyone should feel like contributing. It is vital that each team member is aware of the impact they have on others with their attitude, their mood, and their behaviour.
In my classes, when I ask the participants to define communication, it is clear for everyone that it’s based on interaction and exchange of information between people that share what they think and feel for the simple reason of being together.
Emotions, feelings, and thoughts are conveyed outwards and are translated into actions that others can observe. The more we are aware of this, the more we can choose how we can contribute to the establishment of the organisational climate we want to achieve. Knowing that we are all different and that each of us experiences reality from our own point of view isn’t a given. It requires a certain level of empathy and an understanding that diversity is a value.
Therefore, in order to generate collaboration in an organisation, you need:
- Active listening and openness to dialogue
In other words, these are transversal skills, or soft skills, that we all possess, but that we all have to constantly train so that they can be used with awareness and based on the people we are communicating with and on the results we want to achieve.
3. Role awareness
Working with team spirit doesn’t simply mean to be supportive. In tug of war, for example, everyone is pulling in the same direction as much as they can, but there is no exchange or interaction between participants.
Teamwork is a game of different and well-defined roles which make targeted actions possible through clearly defined methods and strategies.
Being aware of your role means knowing your strengths and your skills, and it means you are willing to go the extra mile to make sure the project succeeds.
There are some companies where roles are quite vague, unclear, and without clearly defined boundaries, as if the employees are expected to discover their roles freely through meetings, or confrontations, with colleagues. One should hardly expect to achieve good results in these conditions.
In sport, roles are pre-established according to the precise rules of the chosen game. Likewise, in a company, roles need to be custom-built according to the synergies needed to achieve clear business objectives. This should be our focus as it enables us to welcome rather than judge, observe and listen rather than impose, and become able to give and take in an exciting game where each participant is asked to act.
Working together amplifies success!
Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.
Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-born American entrepreneur and philanthropist
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