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Teamwork is good, right?

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Teamwork is good, right?

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In many workplaces across the land, organisations are trying to foster a culture of collaboration, with knowledge flowing across departmental lines and everyone pulling in the same direction.  Often a central element of this is the encouragement of teamwork.

On the surface this seems something that can only be good.  After all, working with others to achieve a goal is kinda what organisations exist to do.  Teamwork can be within small, niche groups or in a much wider collective of people from throughout the organisation.

The notion that working well with others both inside and outside of your organisation is a good one, and one that should rightly be promoted by senior leaders.  They should be aware however that teamwork is not always a bed of roses.  There are some pitfalls lurking under the surface that could provide some rather unintended consequences.

When teamwork kills collaboration

Teams are often so potent because they provide a unified sense of identity for its members.  That’s great in a lot of ways, but it can also bond people together so tightly that they fail to engage with people from outside of their group.  When teamwork only exists within small pockets, it becomes more like a clique than a team.  To ensure this doesn’t happen, leaders need to ensure that everyone feels part of the overall team.

When teamwork doesn’t extend to the leaders

I’m sure we’ve all come across leaders that wanted their teams to do what they said rather than what they did.  When you’re trying to collaborate across the organisation though it’s crucial that those at the top table are working well together.  The culture seeps down from the boardroom into their respective departments, so if they’re not a strong team themselves, it makes it much harder to infuse that spirit within the organisation.

Teamwork for the sake of teamwork

Just as with collaboration as a whole, it’s important that you remember the reason you want people working better together.  It’s highly likely that you’re not in the business of producing effective teams, so always keep the end goal in mind.  There may after all be times when working as a team is not effective.  Research from a few years ago for instance revealed that people often come up with better ideas when working on their own, but those ideas are developed more effectively within a team.


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