Effective Teamwork

A work group exists because a company hires a number of people to perform specific tasks and jobs. A team develops when those people work together in ways that enhance their efficiency and productivity. A team is a complex organism that exists as an entity in its own right and also as a collection of the individuals that comprise it. Individual personalities and work styles significantly influence the team’s collective identity. The most effective teams contain complementary, not necessarily similar, personalities and work styles. In such a setting, the whole truly becomes more than the sum of its parts: a team. Each person’s strengths overlap the others’ weaknesses.

Sometimes teams form around job responsibilities. Certain people in marketing, like the PR group, are a natural team, as is the production control or quality control group in manufacturing. Teams also form that slice across responsibilities. For example, managers can pull together people from different jobs or departments to look at morale issues, evaluate new technologies, or help the department get ready to implement a new procedure or methodology. Such teams get people interacting in new ways by forming relationships that cut across the usual functional boundaries, especially when those boundaries also separate groups that compete with each other in some way. And when managers constantly bring different people together on various teams, employees learn to adapt better to change because they have to quickly become cohesive and then accomplish something.

Teams develop not only a way of operating, but also of interacting. A culture forms that establishes the team’s expectations and standards. Each team member has a role; this defines and distributes responsibility. In some teams, one person surfaces as the leader, often emerging naturally, although sometimes the manager designates the leader. In other teams, the members share leadership roles and responsibilities. While shared leadership is generally more effective, much depends on the team itself — its goals and purpose as well as the personalities and work styles of its members.

by Gary McClain, Ph.D., and Deborah S. Romaine