The importance of teamwork in a business environment
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford
Many organizations nowadays recognize the importance and benefits of having employees working together in a collaborative way, by combining their thoughts, perspectives and experiences, in order to develop and deliver the company’s products and services at high quality standards.
Teamwork is generally defined as an activity or a set of inter-related activities accomplished by more than one person to meet a common goal, for which they are mutually accountable.
However, things get a bit more complex when it comes to team composition. In building a team, a right mix of technical, interpersonal and decision-making skills are required for optimal functioning and performance.
According to Belbin Associates, in an organization specialized in team role development, most people have two or three team roles that come naturally and are most comfortable with, followed by a few roles that they can manage to cover if they need to and some that they prefer not to adopt at all. Thus Belbin Associates showcases nine different roles employees will assume in a team:
- Shaper – determined to keep the team focused on what has to be achieved, or improved, but sometimes might not have the right attitude in assisting the team in reaching the established goals.
- Implementer – the one who will turn ideas into a practical plan and carry it out efficiently, but might be inflexible and resistant to change.
- Completer/ Finisher – ensures timely completion of work tasks, but can sometimes be accused of extreme perfectionism.
- Coordinator – focuses on the team’s objectives, offers solutions for the problems encountered, can delegate work appropriately, but may be seen to offload their personal share of the work.
- Team Worker – encourages cooperation, reliable, diplomatic and cooperative, but might become indecisive when unpopular decisions need to be made.
- Resource investigator – explores new opportunities and develops contacts, but may be overly optimistic and can lose interest after initial enthusiasm passes.
- Plant – able to present new ideas and approaches, is creative and good at solving problems in unconventional ways, but may be unorthodox and forgetful.
- Monitor/ Evaluator – good analytical skills, can make impartial judgments and weigh up options in an objective way but can be overly critical and uninspiring for the team.
- Specialist – provides knowledge and skills in a key area, but might have a tendency to focus narrowly on their own subject of choice.
Types of teams
In contemporary organizations, there are three types of work teams: functional, cross-functional and self-directed teams.
A) Functional teams consist of employees coming from different vertical levels of the organizational hierarchy, such as accounting, marketing and human resources, having different responsibilities but all working together to perform the same function needed in the department.
B) Cross functional teams are composed of experts from various functional areas within the organization, who work cooperatively towards achieving the set organizational goals. Being experts in their own rights, members of cross-functional teams are usually empowered to make decisions independently, without needing to consult top management.
C) Self-directed work teams share both managerial and operational responsibilities. When problems occur, the team pulls together to solve them and share accountability for the output. They work as a vehicle to move employees within the company from participation to empowerment.
Now, you might ask yourself: what does it mean to be an effective team member?
Well, it means working respectfully with all of your co-workers, being reliable enough to be trusted to finish your work independently, listening to others’ opinions and clearly expressing yours, being kind and patient, taking accountability for your mistakes, collaborating, giving and receiving feedback with other team members in a proper way and celebrating the team’s achievements.
Being able to work as part of a team is one of the most important aspects in today’s working environment. Companies guided by strong corporate values will always look for employees who can bring their own ideas to the fore, but who can also work with others in a respectful manner, in order to create and develop projects together.
By managing and nurturing this competitive advantage, companies can reap great benefits, such as increased market share, continuous improvement, enhanced employee commitment and a more streamlined set of internal processes, all of which contribute to ultimate goals, like greater ROI and satisfied customers.