What is actually teamwork? What do we call teams? Okay, let us put the concept in proper perspective. Recently, the naming ceremony of a baby boy God had just given a nice couple in the neighbourhood was going on. And two friends who had earlier decided to contribute N20,000 each and give the parents of the baby arrived. One handed his own N20,000 to his friend so that he could add his own N20,000 to make up the N40,000 agreed.
Instead of adding his own N20,000, the smart friend just put the N20,000 in his pocket, took his cheque and wrote “Pay Mr. Nice Man the sum of N40,000”, even when he and his friend knew he did not have any money in his bank account! Would you call these two people friends? They are friends but not compatible ones. This shows that being friends does not automatically mean the people involved are intimate. That is why you have an expression such as, “With a friend like you, I don’t need an enemy anymore”. This means that the so-called friend referred to is like an enemy already.
Lack of specification
Just like “Friendship”, one compound word that is vaguely used in Nigeria, especially in the corporate environment is “Teamwork”. Having teams in place or engaging in teamwork without actually defining the type does not automatically guarantee organisational success. Effective teamwork is the foundation of all successful management and a true and effective team is a living, constantly changing, dynamic force in which a number of people come together to work. Team members discuss their objectives, assess ideas, make decisions and work towards their targets together under strong and effective leadership.
Accomplishing business goals
In the words of Carole Sue Jones, a training and instructional design professional with a strong focus on management development, “Managers need to be able to build effective teams and relationships in order to accomplish business priorities and goals. They define success in terms of the whole team’s performance and will allow people to be responsible for the work they do. They must balance that with the ability to provide the information their team members need to do complete their tasks while helping them feel good about the work that they do. Informing is a critical task in productivity and team-building.”
Just-concluded South Africa 2010
If you watched the (Super) Eagles’ matches at the just-concluded World Cup in South Africa, you would know that just having teams in place does not automatically guarantee success if the teams are not effective and committed. We saw uncoordinated teamwork in action. Ineffective teams are either metaphorically not seen as teams or they are literally seen as purposeless teams just as a cowardly man can either be metaphorically referred to as a woman or literally called a fearful man.
Little wonder that Jim Clemmer, the bestselling author of Pathways to Performance and The Leader’s Digest says, “For all the big talk, matching T-shirts…, calling a group of people a team does not make it one. These groups are usually just a collection of individuals from the same department who meet periodically. Few of us have been lucky enough to participate in a strong, united team. Giving everyone a T-shirt may produce short-term warm and fuzzy feelings but it rarely leads to a powerful, united team unless root issues are addressed. An example of a root issue might be chronic animosity between managers working with the team.”
Laying ground rules and setting goals are just a few of the guidelines that can help your teams reach their goals such as improvement in productivity, process management, innovation, cost-effectiveness, etc. According to Kevin Eikenberry, a leadership expert, “Everyone thinks teams are a good thing. Leaders like to form teams. People, for the most part believe in the value and purpose of teams….”
Types of teams
There are two basic types of teams created in organisations. There are football/basketball teams; and track and field teams. Your organisation’s success depends on your choice out of these two types and how effective you are able to manage the right choice you have luckily made.
These are teams that naturally require that everyone should play as a unit. Such teams naturally compel people to cooperate and remain committed in organisations because it is not possible to be successful alone as individuals. I am sure you know we did not lift the Fifa Under-17 World Cup we hosted last year because some players were selfish, trying to impress the football scouts. Eventually, all the players lost the match together.
Track-and-field teams constitute the second type of teams in organisations. Organisations need to avoid putting this type of teams in place because people will target individual success instead of being committed to effective teamwork. Track and field teams are unconsciously created in organisations when individual efforts are predominantly rewarded instead of team efforts. Then rivalry will start among staff instead of healthy competition among different teams in an organisation.
For example, we normally have Team Nigeria whenever we are going to the Olympics. The team is usually made up of sprinters, high jumpers, shot putters, distance runners, footballers, etc. Even though members or sub-teams are collectively known as Team Nigeria, they are not interdependent in their engagements when they get there as they target individual or sub-team success. This is because the shot putters can succeed without the high jumpers, sprinters or footballers. In track and field events, except in relay events, athletes are not interdependent. Though members of the sub-team of football need each other to succeed, the football sub-team does not need other sub-teams to succeed because their set skills are different, even though all the sub-teams are Team Nigeria.
Effective teamwork is critical to the success of any organisation. So organisations need to set priorities right and review them frequently; balance teams for strengths; give team members proper orientation as regards overall corporate goals, etc. Beyond everything, reward for individual performance should be discouraged while team excellence should be rewarded.