Every company might have very different needs, but the benefits of teamwork are relevant to all of them. In fact, team effectiveness is crucial to every type of organization you can imagine. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about an elementary school, a professional sports teams, or a worldwide corporation. The benefits of teamwork apply wherever you find people working toward common goals.
For some people, a sports analogy is one of the best ways to encapsulate the incredible benefits of teamwork. Think about the ‘Cinderella Stories’ that unfold during the NCAA basketball tournament every year. These ‘Cinderella teams’ come into the tournament as serious underdogs. They lack the individual star power that marks the top-ranked teams, but somehow they continue to win games and advance.
And the secret to these underdogs’ thrilling success is always superior teamwork. These teams come together as a unified whole to defeat teams with superior individual talent. But you don’t have to be a sports fan to understand how teamwork helps your company. Continue reading to discover the myriad benefits of teamwork and how your company can achieve them.
The Importance of Teamwork in an Organization
If the sports analogy doesn’t help illustrate the importance of team effectiveness, you can probably draw examples from your work experience. If you’re a team leader, you’ve seen what a great team can accomplish firsthand. You’ve witnessed the amazing results that emerge when team members put their egos aside and focus on the big picture.
On the other hand, you’ve probably experienced the negative outcomes of poor teamwork as well. These negative outcomes include things like:
- Task redundancies
- Pervasive and/or irresolvable team conflicts
- Systematic inefficiency
- Missed deadlines
- Low productivity
- Decreased profits
In short, experience has taught you the importance of teamwork in an organization. But while this is a great place to start, you’ll need to dig a little deeper to conjure up the magic of teamwork on a consistent basis. Toward that end, let’s take a look at the ‘inflection points’ of organizational teamwork.
The Inflection Points of Good Teamwork
For our purposes, inflection points refer to the specific areas where teamwork either thrives or begins to falter. You can also think of these points as ‘critical moments’ in team development. But no matter what you call them, understanding these turning points is the first step in achieving the benefits of teamwork. Here are the five teamwork components you’ll need to manage for best results.
1. Team member cooperation
Essentially, cooperation refers to the motivational factors that drive the members of your team. These factors include the beliefs, feelings, and attitudes of your team members. Cooperation also includes how these factors determine individual behavior. In short, cooperation happens (or doesn’t happen) where perception and action meet. And like all of our inflection points, cooperation is an area that team leaders have to manage well.
2. Team coordination
Team coordination has to do with putting teamwork attitudes and behaviors into productive action. It means assigning the right tasks to the right people, as well as blending complementary strengths and weaknesses into an efficient whole. In an overall sense, team coordination refers to the ways in which management leverages company resources into optimal team outcomes.
3. Internal and external communication
First, internal communication is the exchange of relevant information between team members. It includes both the content of the communication and the ways it’s transmitted. Good internal communication requires precision, mutual understanding, and a shared vocabulary.
External communication is the transmission of pertinent information to entities outside your company. Typically, these entities include vendors, other companies, customers, and the community at large. For a more practical grasp of external communication, team leaders should think of it as part of public relations.
Taken together, these two types of communication go a long way toward determining the beliefs, feelings, and attitudes of your team members. And as we saw above, these are the driving factors of effective cooperation.
4. Team leadership and coaching
Team leaders directly intervene in these areas. First, they establish team goals and position members to achieve them. Second, they offer feedback and other types of counsel as projects continue to develop. Lastly, team leaders model teamwork behaviors for employees to emulate.
5. Team Culture
A positive team or company culture is a huge factor in team effectiveness. A company culture facilitates great teamwork when it creates a set of shared values and goals between members from different backgrounds. Once management establishes this sense of unity and group identification, employee behavior tends to become more team oriented.
Now that you have a good grasp of these teamwork inflection points, let’s have a look at the specific benefits of teamwork in the workplace.
The Top Five Benefits of Teamwork in a Global Economy
In some ways, the benefits of teamwork are readily apparent. But today’s globalized economy gives a phrase like ‘two heads are better than one’ an entirely new meaning. That’s why it’s important to make the benefits of teamwork more explicit. Such an explicit discussion will accomplish two important goals at once. First, it will help motivate team members to engage in team orientated behaviors. Second, it will help teams set project specific goals and sharpen the methods they use to achieve them.
To get this process started, here are the five top benefits of teamwork in a global economy:
1. Teamwork inspires creativity and innovation
A teamwork setting inspires the creativity your company needs to tackle the changing difficulties of a global economy. When people work as a team, they can exchange and improve their individual ideas and participate in highly productive brainstorming. Your company will also benefit from the new perspectives that people from different backgrounds bring to the conference table.
Old ways aren’t always the best ways, especially when it comes to solving business problems you haven’t encountered before. Truly great teamwork makes room for the practical innovation your company needs to evolve with the times.
2. Teamwork creates a support network
Every company experiences difficult times. This holds true no matter what industry you’re working in. The workplace can be incredibly stressful even at the best of times, but unforeseen negative circumstances can make things worse if you’re not prepared.
The difference lies in how your team responds to these challenging periods. Companies that navigate these difficult times successfully are those with reliable support networks. These support networks allow team members to rely on one another for guidance and encouragement during these difficult times. Create an environment that’s conducive to effective teamwork and these support networks will arise naturally.
3. Teamwork breeds flexibility
The ability to adapt on the fly is critical to success in a progressively expanding economy. Truly effective teamwork makes this adaptability possible. When people work as a unit, they accept their respective roles and understand how their performance affects their co-workers. With this mutual understanding in place, your team can pivot in many different directions without missing a step.
4. Teamwork promotes career development
Teamwork is all about helping the group, but it also helps individual career development. Working as part of a team lets people learn varying skill sets and apply them in a number of different contexts. This provides a two-pronged benefit. First, it lets your individual employees contribute that much more to your company’s projects.
Second, the acquisition of new skills improves your employees’ future prospects whether they stay with your company or not. Either way, they’ll welcome the opportunities your teamwork setting has given them and maximize their contributions.
5. Teamwork increases productivity and your company’s bottom line
It’s simple really– a well-oiled team can accomplish things that no group of individuals can. A teamwork setting provides an ideal blend of specialization and cross-training. It also makes for a highly productive division of labor. Most importantly, good teamwork allows team leaders to assign tasks in a way that balances individual strengths and weaknesses. With these mechanisms in place, your employees can work in tandem with one another and boost productivity significantly.
How to Improve Teamwork in the Workplace
Hopefully, you now have a much deeper understanding of how teamwork benefits your company. But while this is a great place to start, more is left to be done to gain these crucial advantages. As a team leader, you understand better than anyone that great teamwork doesn’t happen on accident. You also understand that the task of fostering teamwork falls to you and the rest of your management team.
Here are ten quick tips on how to improve teamwork in the workplace:
- Recognize and reward team accomplishments instead of individual ones
- Set well-defined and achievable team goals
- Base individual performance evaluations on team outcomes
- Model teamwork behavior in your everyday actions
- Make time and room for non-work related socialization
- Create and maintain open lines of communication
- Divide leadership responsibilities as equally as possible
- Provide team oriented feedback to individual employees
- Address conflicts promptly and resolve them fairly
- Let employees participate actively in decision making
Meeting the Challenges of Teamwork in the Remote Workforce
The benefits of teamwork apply across the board, but they’re especially relevant to companies who utilize virtual teams. The reasons for this should be fairly obvious. Unlike co-located teams, a remote workforce rarely shares the same space. This distance alone can make it difficult to establish even the most basic necessities of effective teamwork.
But teamwork effectiveness becomes even more difficult when you add in the language barriers, social isolation, and other challenges that so often plague virtual teams. That’s why virtual team leaders have to go the extra mile to create a truly collaborative environment. Fortunately, the teamwork aspects we’ve discussed here work just as well with virtual teams as co-located ones.
Virtual teams will become more and more common as the economy expands into more distant parts of the world. And while this amounts to a sea change in the way companies do business, the benefits of teamwork will always be a constant. Get started now on improving your teamwork environment to make the transition as smooth as possible.