Free «What is Teamwork» Essay

What is Teamwork

No person lives in isolation. Therefore, people interact with each other in almost all of their endeavors. The ability to interact well with each other while performing activities enables people to accomplish tasks that they would never have accomplished if they worked alone. Teamwork has become so implanted in human’s daily routine that trying to avoid belonging to any type of a team has become almost impossible. However, formation of any kind of a team should follow well defined steps to ensure that the team has clear objectives and mission to avoid working in vain. This paper discusses various aspects of teamwork.

Different people with various skills often come together to carry out a task. Most of the time, these people are accountable for their actions and have a common goal which they set to accomplish. However, the understanding of teamwork is scanty, even though most people continue to form teams in their work places. This paper addresses various issues that are related to teamwork.

According to Sugarman (2004), teamwork can simply be described as any task that is performed by a group of people geared towards a mutual goal. Looked at differently, teamwork is where a group of people possessing different skills and strengths work together in pursuit of a mutually desired outcome. Most notably, teamwork has come to be synonymous with sports such as football and basketball where a group of people explicitly work together with each other contributing his/her skills to secure a win. Teamwork is practiced in almost all types of work.  Similarly, teamwork can be looked at as a combination of talents, skills, and strength for the purpose of accomplishment of a task.

The Importance and Benefits of Teamwork

Sugarman (2004) observes that teamwork is important for several reasons. It leads to a successful accomplishment of a task, which would not be possible if an individual worked on it alone. Teamwork enables one to expand his/her talents in pursuit of the common goal. It boosts unity and respect among team members. Teamwork also helps to build confidence in facing an insurmountable task. It also ensures that work is accomplished faster and, in most of the cases, successfully. Teamwork guarantees continuity and progress while working on a task because people encourage one another even if the task is tedious and cumbersome. Furthermore, teamwork can improve relationships among team members.

Reasons for Moving Towards Teamwork

People come together in teamwork to consolidate their skills, tasks, preferences, and talents to perform a complex task. Teamwork thus plays a vital role in personal life of any team member and the team in which he/she is working. Another reason for embracing teamwork is to ensure that tasks are performed quickly and successfully. For instance, if one person was left to build a ten storey building alone, the building would take many years to be completed or it could not be well built either. Teamwork also allows team members to learn from each other as they share a common goal. Teamwork leads to concentration of skills and talents to allow for accomplishment of complex tasks.

Common Misconceptions about Teamwork

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Teamwork is a matter of performing magic. This misconception holds that teams are supposed to consist of highly talented people who are provided with instructions from the team leader and perform a task. Another misconception is that skills of a team member are more important than his/her motivation. The opposite is true since motivated team members make a powerful team. Similarly, people think that teamwork involves personal liking rather than encouragement from team members. Additionally, there is a misconception that team members must sacrifice their self-interests for the good of the team in which they are working. It is a kind of putting aside one’s interests and concentrating on those of the team.

Types of Teamwork

According to Parker (2010), there are different types of teams that function in accordance to outlined objectives. Teamwork thus depends on the type of team that is performing the task. For instance, informal teams engage in informal teamwork, while formal teams engage in formal teamwork. Other types of teamwork include traditional, problem solving, leadership, self-directed, and virtual type. Additionally, there are temporary and permanent teams which exist during different periods. Leadership teamwork may involve teams such as steering committees and advisory councils. Each type of teamwork possesses distinct characteristics that make it different from others. However, a common characteristic is that teamwork tends to be guided by a common goal.

Functions and Requirements of Teamwork

Teams perform different functions while being engaged in teamwork. Such functions may include cross-functional works and networking functions or group functions. Cross-functional teams have the following elements: functional diversity, competing identities, integration in the organizational structure, and performance expectation. Teams are required to have a defined purpose and boundaries that will guide their performance. Teams are also required to be involved in planning to accomplish sub tasks that make up the larger task. In addition, teamwork also requires a leader to guide implementation of roles that contribute to successful accomplishment of the task.

Five Stages of Teamwork: "Tuckman's Teamwork Theory"

Dyer &  Dyer (2010) observe that Tuckman’s teamwork theory postulates that there are five stages involved in teamwork. These stages are discussed further in the paper.

Forming

Forming is the initial stage of team development and is not characterized by any outlined goals or people. Each person is trying to find the place in the team and asks himself or herself why all members have come together in the first place. The leader is not yet known and each person acts on his or her own instinct. In this stage, members of the team quickly identify four elements. These elements are strengths, teamwork, alignment, and results that the team possesses. Strengths are brought by members and may include skills, talents, and experiences. Teamwork is a characteristic of a mutually agreeable goal. Alignment implies the leadership and duration, while results are desired end goals (Dye &  Dyer, 2010).

Storming

This stage is characterized by the realization of team spirit. That is, people start to see themselves as members of a team. This stage is also full of challenges since members try to challenge each other and team leader about the role and function of the team. They also clarify how the role will be carried out and who should perform which role. As such, there is a lot of time wastage in this stage as members lack focus and sense of responsibility. However, this period is short lived. Proper handling of the problem will enable people to settle quickly and easily in their different roles.

Norming

This stage is characterized by members amalgamating and developing processes and procedures that will guide teamwork. In this stage, rules are established to clarify who does what and how each role is carried out. There is a growing sense of unity as members start respecting one another and appreciating roles that each member plays. Norming involves identifying skills and talents that each team member possesses. This stage may also involve realignment of roles to suit these skills and talents.

Performing

Performing is the fourth stage of team development. It is characterized by the increased focus on both the task and team relationships among members that, if effectively combined, provide synergy effect. In this stage, performance is realized through people working together effectively to achieve a mutually recognized goal. Performing stage is limited by the time-frame in accordance to which all tasks are allocated. The quality of work is determined by the output that is expected from the team. Therefore, teams strive to produce a high quality work within a short time and thus require concentration and expertise. Such teams include medical teams working in surgery and many more.

Adjourning

Dyer &  Dyer (2010) observe that adjourning stage of team building includes evaluation of achievements and failures that the team has had in the course of its work. Here, achievements are celebrated, while failures are used as lessons to learn from. It allows to improve future work of a team. Learning from mistakes improves performance and effectiveness of people who are working in a team. This is especially true if the team has another opportunity of working together. If there are chances of working with the same people again, adjourning stage should include acceptance of criticism and challenges that were encountered during the work to avoid future problems among team members.

Managing Teamwork

According to Heathfield (2012), building an effective team can be one of the most challenging but satisfying accomplishments for organization. She further notes that teamwork requires the amalgam of personnel that is compatible with tasks that the team is supposed to accomplish. As such, there are a lot of factors that must be considered before selecting a team to perform a task. These factors are discussed further in the paper.

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Assigning Overall Responsibilities and Work Boundaries

In order to ensure coordination and harmony it is important that control tools are put in place. This will help to ensure that responsibilities and work boundaries are well defined. This will also help to avoid conflicts of interest and duplication of work. Assigning responsibilities and work boundaries ensures that the best relevant talents are focused on the right tasks to avoid loss of talent and skills. For instance, the football team manager cannot assign the goal keeper to play striking and vice versa as the two have totally different skills. 

Selecting the Team Leader

Selection of a team leader depends on person’s skills, experiences, talents, and control that he/she can have over on the team. A team leader should be an influential person, who is capable of forming opinion among team members and make follow-ups to ensure that roles and duties are accomplished as defined by the team. However, the unique nature of small short-lived teams can virtually give every member an opportunity to be a leader. For instance, in a discussion group, the person who came last or first can be given an opportunity to become a team leader.

Selecting Team Members

Heathfield (2012) observes that in most of the cases team members are selected based on various characteristics that are influenced by the kind of work that people are supposed to engage in. For a professional task such as surgery, a qualified medical person can be selected to join the team as a member. However, most teams are formed based on interests and shared vision of their members. The selected person must share the goal that the team wants to accomplish and should possess necessary skills, talent, and experience. For instance, it will not help football team if they select a golf player as their team member.

Providing Tools and Requirements

Tools provided for teamwork should be relevant so as to lead to the accomplishment of roles that members are assigned to. Team roles must be evaluated to determine the kind of tools and equipments that will be required for doing the work. Team members can be included in the process of evaluation of work roles. In this way they can suggest the kind of tools that will be suitable for doing the work that they will be assigned to.

Fundamentals of High Teamwork Performance

Teams tend to perform better if they have clearly defined objectives. However, objectives that a team sets to achieve should be realistic so that the team does not set objectives that are clearly beyond their reach. Objectives should be measureable, attainable, time bound, and realistic. This can be achieved through agreeing on objectives before setting out to perform a task in a team. As such, objectives act as guiding tools that members of a team keep in mind. Short-term objectives should also be evaluated since their time limit elapses to ensure a smooth progress.

Clear Roles and Responsibilities of the Teamwork

Defining roles and responsibilities in a team will ensure that all members perform their tasks with concentration and interest. Defined roles also ensure that skills, talents, experiences, and interests are concentrated in a right place. This ensures high work output of members of the team. Similarly, clear roles make it easier for the team leader to exercise control in case a problem occurs in the implementation of tasks that the team is supposed to perform.

However, clearly defined roles cannot be useful if there is lack of coordination on how these roles and responsibilities are carried out. In fact, people require regular control, especially if they are working in a team, as they tend to believe that the other person is not performing their best. Coordination will ensure that team members do not loose focus of the main goal that they set to accomplish. Coordination also may boost the morale of team members as they feel that some one is in control and will reward their efforts.

As such, coordination can be achieved through proper planning, especially in case where the team is large and operates in a large geographical region. For instance, in a team that is involved in sales and marketing the team leader needs to have a proper plan on how to coordinate different teams that may be working in different parts of the country. Thus, the team leader may want to choose consultative decision-making coupled with efforts of team members and pursue defined problem-solving models and procedures. All these steps need to be agreed upon by team members before settling down to perform any responsibility.

Structure of the team is important since it will aid in coming up with solutions during a problem-solving process. Team structure may be composed of job management and junior members with many other levels in the middle. Structure of the team is important because it determines communication models and effectiveness of feedback in case there appears any problem related to carrying out duties or responsibilities.

The strength of any team lies in its ability to select team members with diverse experiences, cooperation styles, and conflict management capabilities. Since teams consist of different kinds of people, conflicts will surely arise. However, knowing how to control and manage these conflicts will help to ensure that the team does not loose focus of the goal that was set to be accomplished. On the other hand, diverse experiences ensure that the team will benefit from the availability of skills that may be useful in delivering high quality results.

Obstacles to Effective Teamwork

Parker (2003)observes that the fact that the team is functionally diverse does not guarantee that high quality of outcomes will be achieved. Effective teamwork is likely to be hampered by the absence of a competent leader. Leadership within a team is fundamental for accomplishment of tasks since it ensures control and discipline of team members. However, absence of a competent leadership may cause the team to lose focus and even drift away from their objectives.

According to Parker (2003), communication is the back bone of many entities and corporations. Communication in teams is important to ensure that all tasks are accomplished according to the expectations. However, poor communication can lead to a breakdown of performance and lead to confusion between team members. Communication should be enhanced through the use of information technologies to ensure that team members benefit from the best communication opportunities in their teams.

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Moreover, Parker (2003)notes that another important factor is support that top management gives to the team. Lack of support from the top management means that the team cannot achieve its set goals. Additionally, they should guard against shifting or changing of goals since this undermines the concentration of team members. The team should ensure that the goals that it set out to accomplish initially are followed to the end. Cross-team communication is also important in ensuring that there are minimal conflicts among the members. A lack of cross-team communication will lead to a breakdown in performance.

Keeping focus on the interest of the team is equally important. Loss in focus means that team members are not going to accomplish what they initially set out to do. Similarly, individualistic focus implies that the team has lost focus and is no longer doing what it had to do. Parker (2003) suggests that top management should come up with ways to keep team members focused to avoid deviating from the main goal for the team.

Clear understanding of roles, purpose, and vision of the team will also enable team members to continue performing in line with set goals. However, lack of clearly defined roles will slowly shift the attention of members as they will be confused about which mission of the team is to be accomplished.

Motivation of members is important for boosting the morale of members. Lack of focus on rewards and appreciation will cause team members to start focusing on their own interests. This will reduce their performance and job output. Motivation can be enhanced through incentives such as rewards and appreciation of team members whenever they effectively perform  their roles. Motivation is more than high salary or other incentives that may be evident to the management. Thus, there is a need for top management of a team to understand what motivates its members.

Additionally, Parker (2003)observes that unity among team members is important to reinforce personal confidence and social cohesion among individuals. Team members can occasionally come together during dinner parties and picnics and have an opportunity to interact with each other away from the work environment. This will give them an opportunity to understand each other, and thus will improve their work performance.

Finally, Parker (2003)argues that lack of trust among members of a team will make them suspect each other and, therefore, interfere with their performance. As such, trust among team members can be cultivated through social interactions, where each team member gets to learn from other members. It also can be fostered through training on integrity and trust among members of the same team.

Conclusion

From the above discussion, it is evident that teamwork has a definite role to play when it comes to accomplishing important tasks. Members of a team need to go through the process o formation of the team to ensure that they are clearly following objectives and mission. Even though there are many obstacles to teamwork, a careful handling of problems will ensure that team members work together towards the accomplishment of a common goal.   

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