Issues you may find in teamwork

Amazon has 46,000 books that contain “teamwork” in the title. Why so many? Surely it’s common sense that a good team always is better than a group of individuals?

Yes, it is common sense but unfortunately it’s not easy – and in this section we talk about the difficulties of teamwork you will find at work.

Whenever a business is in trouble the solution that is often promoted by consultants is to have “teamwork exercises”.

I have been involved in a huge number of “teamwork exercises” recommended by consultants, and my view is that I doubt whether it really makes a difference.

I believe that there are people who are never going to be team players, they are basically too selfish, and look at a team activity as another opportunity to promote themselves.

They want individual recognition, and are not suited to any team.
Then there are other people who will try and try against all odds, to make a team work effectively.

Even when it’s clear the team is not working, they will persevere, often to the detriment of their own health, to try and get the team to work and succeed at the task.

Then there are the majority of people. They are the ones who are happy to go along to get along. They will put in some effort, especially if the team task is one they support, but otherwise do enough to keep the peace.

I like football. It’s a team game, but after following the game for many years you soon realise that teamwork takes many forms. For example, the Italian football team was known for many years as a collection of prima donnas. But they were very successful prima donnas – becoming champions of the world several times.

Then there are teams that become world champions where each individual is not a great player, but when they play as a team something happens and as a team they become unbeatable. Leicester City is a recent example from the English Premier League. They were a 5,000 to 1 chance to win their league. But they did.

What does this mean for the new starter at work?

Be flexible, recognise that teams are complicated and you may have to adapt to different roles in the team that you are in at that time. Respect the fact that every individual brings something to the team and under the right direction and circumstances a great team can be formed.

Your role in a team

As a new starter you will generally have limited opportunity to contribute to any team until you
have learnt the language and the ropes of the business. But as you are doing that, be alert to the team members. Who are the innovators in the team – the ones who have all the good ideas – and may rarely follow through with them. Who are the optimists in the team – the ones who have strong beliefs that the team will be successful. Who are the pessimists? Who are the ones who complete the tasks, who keep a steady eye on the final goal and work towards it, no matter what other things are going on.

All of these observations will help you fit into the team and build up your reputation once you have been handed some tasks to do in the team environment.

Also recognise that teams sometimes fail. There are all sorts of reasons for this, and the best you can do is to take the positives away and learn from them. Leave the negative experiences behind.

My advice therefore is to support any team that you are involved with to the best of your ability. Be known as the willing worker, even if working in a team is difficult and perhaps frustrating for you. Use the team role to extend your reputation through the business.