“Teamwork” is a platitude that organizational leaders throw around that is killing teamwork in those very same organizations.
In my experience, probably too often.
If that’s the case and so much focus is on teamwork wouldn’t you think it would eventually get better?
The reason it doesn’t is because the focus is in the wrong place. The focus is on teamwork and that is misguided, because…
- Teamwork doesn’t exist.
- Teamwork is a myth.
Teamwork only occurs in the very split second, in the moment when something is successfully handed off or coordinated between one or more individuals.
We’ve all seen great examples of this “teamwork” in athletics, such as:
- the double-play transaction between a 2nd Baseman and Shortstop at second base.
- the quarterback handoff to the running back in football
- the alley-oop play in basketball where pass floats up to the basket and the big man slams it through.
But, those moments are not successfully completed unless, and until, each individual team member fulfills their specific responsibility to be in the position to allow that ‘teamwork’ transaction to take place. And, additionally, while that transaction is taking place each team member effectively performs their role as required.
What that means, then, is that teamwork is not so much based on people working together as a team, as it is individuals effectively performing their unique individual roles so that teamwork can take place.
And, subsequently, what that means, is that leaders need to focus more on an individual team member consistently performing their unique responsibility to the best of their ability so that teamwork can manifest.
How a leader does this is by effectively communicating the big picture and how that individual’s contribution makes a difference in helping the team achieve its ultimate objective.
Last week I was facilitating a ‘teamwork’ and collaboration workshop for a client, a regional credit union, and before I made this point to everyone I asked participants to write down their definition of ‘teamwork.’ One woman got it right, saying, “teamwork is a group of individual interdependent successful efforts.”
And, remember, “teamwork never fails, individuals fail teamwork!”
What do you think?
In your experience how does teamwork usually breakdown?
I look forward to the discussion. Make it a great week!