Building Teamwork

Basic Business Cents

Building teamwork is an unnatural act. We are raised in a competitive society and it starts early. We experience sibling rivalry over which child is loved the most by parents, who gets the biggest dessert, who gets treated the most leniently, who is the most attractive, and who is the tallest or slimmest.

We then start school and are graded and ranked. A primary school teacher told me she tried cooperative learning for a term on a trial basis. They were allowed to experiment for a term but at the end had to return to the regular format. She said the biggest problem she encountered was to get her students to go outside and play during recess as they were so absorbed into the team learning that they did not want to interrupt it for recess. On to secondary school and the students are pressured to get better grades than others because parents believe they have to be in the top ten percent of their class to get into the college of their choice. If a child gets a poor grade in one subject, they may think they are no good, for example, in math and will quit studying or avoid math. Sports are also all about competition.

Adulthood brings more competition. We compete for the best job offer. Once in the work force; we are ranked with our fellow workers, which impacts promotions. Our legal system is competitive; we face bigotry, ego building, financial transactions, and even winning the love of our life. These are all win-lose situations but they are not all bad.

However, in many cases we are better off with a win-win situation. Teamwork is needed throughout all of our organizations. How do we do this? It is not easy; a quick literature search this morning revealed very little.

The first step to achieve win-win is to build mutual trust and respect, up down, and across the unit in which we find ourselves at the moment, whether it is our family, school, workplace, or community. Multiple brains working together are more powerful than one. Teamwork requires one to compensate with his/her strength to compensate for others weaknesses. Everyone benefits from responding to others questions.

From the book, Out of the Crisis, by W. Edwards Deming, “Everyone on a team has to have an opportunity to contribute ideas and plans. They need to understand their ideas and plans may be discarded by a consensus of the team. They may be more appropriate later. A good team has a social memory.”

A team must be united to accomplish the aim of the organization. To do that, they need to understand that aim and what is expected of them. It is key that every member of the team buys into the aim or goal before work is started. A statement must be specific and understood by all. A team has customers who must be satisfied and more.

In summary, to build teamwork in our settings, we need to:

  • Display mutual trust and respect for others
  • Understand the aim and desired result for the team
  • Openly share ideas and plans to improve

Alfie Kohn said in his book, No Contest, “Let’s work together so our workplaces and classrooms, our playing fields and families, begin to provide opportunities for us to succeed together instead of at each other’s expense.”