The “i” in team

Patrick Lencioni, in his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” said, “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition.

Teams comprise individuals working together with common goals, objectives and values, and a shared commitment to succeed. While individual members and roles are important, success ultimately hinges on each member’s ability to work cohesively.

Within an organization, teams will be faced with a variety of challenges while pursuing their goal. Competitors in the marketplace, lack of internal productivity, delays and unexpected deadlines all could derail a team’s plans.

Effective teams have four core characteristics:

  • Commitment to the team. Commitment generates feelings of empowerment for the team members. It comes from being recognized as a valued member who contributes to task accomplishment.
  • Decisions made by consensus. Consensus allows team members to openly share opinions and resolve issues with the outcome of satisfying all members.
  • A process for managing conflict and creativity. Every team will encounter conflict during its existence. Conflict is healthy when matched with the willingness to resolve problems. Creativity blossoms when conflict is managed.
  • Effective discussion procedures. Effective discussions within the team facilitate commitment, consensus, conflict resolution and creativity.

Fundamentals of effective teams require:

  • Shared purpose — at the macro level, being committed to a common good and purpose.
  • Motivation — a genuine desire to be the best by using all talents, understanding weaknesses, being willing to accept differences and open to changing with new input.
  • Respect — requires honesty and a core set of shared values demonstrated in a genuine desire to know what others think, and motivation to develop the talents of teammates.
  • Goals — the team realizes a common understanding of the organization’s goals internally and externally. Each member is able to work as an individual and relate his or her own goals to the organization’s goals.
  • Shared leadership — critical for successful teams is designated leadership with people who will follow and self-manage if necessary, but are not afraid to step in and lead on their own.
  • Rooting for others’ success — when team members share responsibility, work is less stressful and team members have a greater feeling of self-worth. Recognition is shared and all team members experience a sense of accomplishment.

Teamwork is the byproduct of a group of individuals who collectively use their talents and knowledge to achieve their collective goal. It permeates the organization and is systematic in terms of orientation, job assignment, performance measurements and reward systems. There are demonstrable differences in organizational behavior and measured results, and it’s more fun.