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Can teamwork be developed? 

The question was answered by Katzenback in a memorable way in his book “the Wisdom of Teams”:

“The good news is that there is a discipline to develop teamwork that, if rigorously followed, can transform reluctance into team performance. While some of the elements of this discipline are counterintuitive and must be learned—for example, that “becoming a team” is not the primary goal—most of it builds on commonsense ideas like the importance of goal setting and mutual accountability…
The bad news is that, like all disciplines, the price of success in developing teamwork is strict adherence and practice. Very few people lose weight, quit smoking, or learn the piano or golf without constant practice and discipline. Very few small groups of people develop teamwork without discipline as well. Groups do not become teams just because we tell them to; launching hundreds of teams will not necessarily produce real teams in the right places; and building teams at the top remains among the most difficult of tests.”

Remembering Katzenback wise words, and adding to these challenges, many teambuilding efforts are simply misguided or emphasize the wrong elements. Teamwork is not just a mix of people skills and personal convictions. Here are the four most damaging misconceptions that get in the way of developing teamwork I have experienced in a variety of settings:

 

  • “Teamwork is A GROUP SKILL”.  To the contrary, it is an individual skill/stance.People work on their teamwork skills by themselves while working with others. As such the responsibility of developing teamwork is squarely on each individual team member.
  • “Teamwork HAPPENS NATURALLY among people who get along.” No, it is hard work unless each team member is willing to seeing himself/herself as part of something bigger, recognize shared responsibility, be commitment to get the work done.
  • “Team members SHOULD LIKE EACH OTHER.” This is unrealistic and unnecessary. But team members do need to master personal communication, negotiation and conflict skills to make their teams high-performing.
  • “Teamwork IS AN ACHIEVEMENT.” This is not exactly the point as it is descriptive and leaves us without a way to get there. Teamwork  is a series of specific conversations that occur among people while getting something done. This means that the ability and willingness to share and be in community is a critical stance that can develop the teamwork abilities of teams.

What could be the impact of these ideas on your bottom line? We feel it might be significant.