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Team Effectiveness

Is Teamwork a Part of Your Team's Work?

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5 Questions to Help Your Leaders Define Teamwork

Imagine you’re sitting at table with your team and you ask them to independently come up with one word for what teamwork means to them. Chances are, you will get as many answers as there are individual team members. Teamwork means very different things to different people.

Today, the need to build cohesion and operate effectively as a team is more important than ever, as many teams find themselves having to do more with less given the new challenges of the great resignation, the pandemic, or shifts to/from in-person, remote, or hybrid workplaces. If your leaders are struggling to come together as a team, consider these five questions:

1.  Why is our work important? 

Daniel Pink identified that the three main things that drive people in work are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Think of this as the larger purpose for why you do the work you do. It’s important that this statement goes beyond profit or making money. There is a deeper meaning behind your work: find it and communicate it to the team. My favorite fable is that of the janitor at NASA who was asked by President Kennedy what he was doing, and he said “I’m helping put a man on the moon!” Help your team members connect with the larger company story that is unfolding.

2.  How do you personally connect with your work?

In our leadership training facilitations we do a lot of work around getting clear on personal values. Values are the things that matter to you the most in the way you live and work. It’s important that your team members know what their values are and how they connect to the larger story of your company. If you’re a leader, you may want to help your team connect the dots by walking them through a personal values exercise in a team meeting. Then you can help them connect those personal values to the values of the company.  

3.  Do you have clear goals and a defined role on your team? 

Recently I was with a group of leaders who brought up the challenge that people will leave meetings without clarity around who is doing what, or they will spend several days figuring out who is supposed to execute the decision that was determined in the meeting. This happens so often! Take the time to get clear on your team goals, which can be short-term or long-term, and let each team member talk through what they think their role is on the team or on the project. Spending time to pause and make sure every team member is clear will pay off in the long run, in terms of team success and business results. 

4.  How well do you feel that you can depend on your teammates?

This answer to this question is rooted in trust, which is a foundational element for highly effective teams. As a team member and a team leader, you are building trust and credibility every day with your team members. A key behavior that we emphasize, which is simple and profound, is consistently doing what you say you will do. Trust building also happens over time and with repeated exposure. If you’re feeling disconnected from a team member, consider doing something like grabbing lunch, schedule a walking meeting, or connecting with them about something you both have in common. Every positive interaction helps in creating that foundation of trust. 

5.  How confident are you that if you share a new idea or take a risk, that your team members will not embarrass, reject, or punish you? 

This is important, and also very connected to an individual’s style of communication and behavior as different personalities will perceive risk differently. The question is inspired by the concept of psychological safety, which is the belief that the team environment is a safe place to share ideas and take risks. This requires practice and courage, and has an immense positive impact on teams when achieved. 

No one ever said that building teams would be easy, but it should be a journey you’re willing to take if you’re looking to have cohesive teams that deliver awesome results. Enjoy the ride! 

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash


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Lauren Parkhill

Lauren Parkhill leads the marketing team in creating creative content that helps organizations develop their leaders and teams.