Teamwork: Why it’s important more important now than ever

Teamwork at work is such a popular topic of conversation right now that we decided to write a guide on the real teamwork meaning and how to navigate it.

It is just now becoming clear to companies just how important (and difficult) it is to put a great team together.

The emphasis on company culture you’ve been hearing about lately has everything to do with that.

This is because companies have finally realized that for every change there must be a change in company culture, too. Changes do not just thrive by themselves; they require the change management process.

Since every individual is different from the next and incredibly nuanced, it is extremely difficult to “succeed at teamwork” as an organization.

But that doesn’t mean you (or companies) have the luxury not to try. Some of the benefits teamwork reaps include greater productivity, a better quality of work, and higher overall morale.

The good news is that there are things that can be done to make the whole process smoother:

Communication

Communication is one of these buzzwords we keep hearing because, well, it’s really important. In fact, all types of relationships die a quick and painful death without it, as we all know.

And just as with a relationship, members of a team at work need to be able to tell each other what they think.

This is also the main reason why a toxic work culture or manager is so insidious. If people can’t say what they think, everyone is miserable and eventually everyone starts to leave. Just like in any relationship or friendship!

One of our major needs as human beings is the need to be heard (and seen.) If your company thrives on “playing it safe” and you “keeping quiet” they are hurting themselves (and also everyone else.) A fear-based workplace never thrives in the long-term; it is simply bad business.

Respect

What many miss about teamwork in the workplace (and also where it gets really confusing) is that they think everyone on a team needs to like each other when that is really not the goal. What really needs to happen is mutual respect.

Professional relationships, by definition, can’t be exactly the same as other types of relationships because they involve a lot more boundaries. You can’t really tell all your coworkers how you’ve been feeling about your relationship lately.

So, if your co-worker respects you, you are doing it right, and it’s really all that matters.

To show your own respect to your fellow team members, get to meetings on time, come prepared, and listen to others with an open mind, even if you don’t agree with them or think they’re right. You are simply listening to them tell their story, and they can’t be wrong about that.

Commitment

A commitment to the team should be taken as well as understood. After all, you have to be there anyway, so why not commit? It’s important to understand where your team is trying to go, its values (if it has any), and how your unique skills will help the team get there. If each team member understands this and is able to communicate it as well as their own role they need to play, both morale and output will increase, with the added benefit of making everyone’s lives easier.

Adaptability

Being adaptable means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and not limiting yourself to certain tasks. We have all been told to clean our own desk, and doing so can be used as a growth opportunity rather than seeing it a punch in the gut. In the face of adversity, adaptability is one of our greatest weapons.

Why teamwork is hard

So why is teamwork at work so elusive in actuality? What makes it so difficult to just, well, get along?

In one survey, nearly 50% of employees who have worked in large teams said it was hard for them because of their team members’ varying working styles.

According to a survey by performance management platform Reflektive, 46 percent of employees said they found it difficult to “contribute in a meaningful way” in the context of larger teams. The study also determined that more than one-third of employees feel the biggest challenge to successful business execution is alignment.

What compounds this, even more, is that “business success today hinges on employees’ ability to work together in teams,” according to Reflektive CEO Greg Brown in a statement.

“And teams work best when their members and efforts are aligned. But without the proper tools, open communication, and goal visibility, it’s hard for teams to get and stay on the same page, track business progress and achieve optimal business outcomes,” said Brown, adding that cross-functional alignment’s impact on employee productivity and engagement is significant.

Not to mention that according to 81 percent of survey respondents, their workplaces frequently try to work as a team.

Companies that are “well-aligned,” on the other hand, are more productive, effective, and have more engaged employees, with an added benefit of excitement (not dread) over new team projects.

This is why it’s so important to invest time and resources into teamwork. It is expensive in the short run but the benefits pay dividends in the long run.

It’s also a huge reflection on the company. “Employees in teamwork-driven organizations—or companies that promote and enable cross-functional collaboration—are almost 1.5x more likely to recommend their company to friends and family,” said Brown. “This is huge for a company’s employer brand.”

It’s important to note one of the most important aspects of teamwork meaning constructive feedback, which, when done in a clear and concise manner, is incredibly valuable to both individuals and companies as a whole.

The best way to provide constructive feedback, and encourage constructive feedback at “lower levels”  is to humanize the conversation, keeping an open line of communication that doesn’t feel threatening to the person’s psyche or to their position.

In fact, constructive feedback works best when an employee feels safe, and like it can actually help them improve their own career.

According to research, employees who thought their companies were capable of delivering proper feedback and helping them set goals were nearly three times more likely to still be at the company two years later.

Company culture, leadership, hiring for values match, and teamwork meaning

Importantly, companies have also finally realized the real teamwork meaning.

The best way for a company to instill a successful work culture is to look for values and purpose-matched employees. In fact, aligning with a company’s values is one of the best reasons to take a position, not to mention that they help promote diversity and acceptance, which has obvious benefits.

“Make an effort to interview people and search for their beliefs and motivations. What are their hopes and dreams, their goals for the future? Once you know their core values, you can not only determine if they fit your organization but you can create a vision for them of what their career and life will be like if they accept your offer,” according to Hire Smart from the Start.

One of the reasons problems such as teamwork issues arise in the first place is when companies aren’t hiring for values.

This is often the result of a hierarchical structure from the top, where employees are inherently undervalued and not made to feel safe.

When employees are pitted against each other (“every man for himself”), teamwork is inherently useless as everyone is trying to undermine the next person.

This mentality is bad for both employees and the company as a whole and will erode the company’s health over time.

It’s also one of the reasons it’s so important for healthy teamwork to be coming from the top. In organizations where that’s not happening, it’s common for the “people at the top” to think they have all the answers or are the only ones that can solve the company’s problems. In actuality, they are the ones creating them.

Teamwork is a much better answer! It allows for a flatter structure where everyone is able to contribute their unique talents because they feel like they can speak and that they will be listened to.

This is the opposite of a fear-based company culture.

The problems arise when businesses are unaware of their own values, or simply don’t care. To transition from being a highly skilled individual contributor to a leader, team building is required. It’s not enough to have one good leader; every employee must know how to lead.

Leadership is needed from many different individuals with various skills sets and knowledge, which is what successful teamwork really is. Therefore, individual skills development combined with teamwork is also a key to success.

In this type of environment, mistakes are seen as learning opportunities on three levels: personal, team, and organizational. Trust, transparency, and synergy are the results. This is the real teamwork meaning.