“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
There has never been a time in history in which teamwork was more important in the business world than now. Three hundred years ago, nearly all businesses were family-owned and independently run. As we have become industrialized and the size of our companies and organizations grows, so does our need for teamwork.
There are two main components of effective teamwork—the team, and the work. This is important for us to understand, because many of us business-minded leaders only see the work. Our assumption is that as long as the tasks get done, our business is successful. The truth, however, is that the team accomplishing the tasks is even more important that the work itself. Too often, organizations misalign the tasks and the team so that people are not working within their strengths. Yes, it may be their job to do a particular task, but if a team member has stronger competencies that would enable them to make a greater contribution to your organization, wouldn’t it make sense to align them with tasks that draw out their fullest potential? If your company is succeeding when people just do their job, how much more could it thrive if everyone contributed according to their best talents, skills, and abilities?
Oftentimes, you don’t need different people in your workforce; you simply need to align the people you have with what they accomplish most naturally. And, it should go without saying, it is still important for tasks to be done and goals to be accomplished. It’s just that this will happen most productively when people can be themselves in doing what they do best, which is not always prescribed by a job description.
Even more, all this only describes the effect of aligning individual employees with their strengths, but incorporating strengths-based principles into teamwork causes even greater success. The ability of one man or woman to build something independently simply does not equal the potential of a cohesive group that works together. This is because teamwork multiplies effectiveness as collaboration grows, rather than just adding what each person independently contributes. In other words, great teams generate more than the sum of their individual parts.
How do you strike this delicate balance between building your people and getting things done? You do it by focusing on something that is greater than both team and tasks—the vision.
Teamwork holds a bulls-eye to the goal. Everyone aligns around one common purpose and strategically directs their talents, ideas, and solutions toward that goal. When we align around vision and purpose, it doesn’t matter who contributed what part. We celebrate the integration of the parts that lead to success and everyone can clearly see their individual significance because they know they contributed something to the whole that only they could contribute.
Focusing on the goal lifts everyone’s eyes off of themselves, raising them to the maturity that realizes their own talent, but also their own limitations. Teamwork strengthens the whole by aligning people with complimenting strengths so that the organization receives the benefit of everyone’s best while not being held back by individual limitations.
This kind of teamwork produces immediate results, but the long-term benefit is even greater. As a culture that celebrates teamwork continues over time in an organization, trust grows and people learn to become even better at the things in which they naturally excel. This increasing trust and competency causes an organization to increase in productivity, employee engagement, and personal fulfillment; while becoming distinguished in its market as a producer of excellence and resilient in times of industry change and transition.
These are distinctions that are simply impossible to attain individually; they are only possible through implementing a culture of teamwork over time. Are you ready to embrace this change and leap into a better future?
We seek to cooperate and align with others in serving the organization and our customers. We build consensus, while always contributing talent, ideas, and solutions that make the organization better.
Worldwide Copyright TJ Associates, LLC Diane Kucala, October 2012. Co-authored by Nathanael White.