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Business Teamwork: The Myths And Realities

One of the most important aspects of building a business is gathering together a team of effective individuals who all know their roles and can thrive within them, and who help one another. Teamwork is emphasized in most workplaces – mentioned in job advertisements, prioritized in training and questioned at length in the interview process. It’s easy to understand why it is prized so highly, and yet there are plenty of misconceptions about teamwork that can steer a business in the wrong direction from time to time.

Let’s be clear – teamwork is important. It matters that your employees can rely on one another to do their jobs in a correct and timely fashion so that the workflow is not adversely affected. At the same time, it is easy to end up focusing on the wrong aspects of teamwork, and so it’s worth looking into what is and isn’t important when it comes to building a successful working team.

Myth: An effective team will all buy into the “company way”

When building a team, there is a temptation to get as many like-minded individuals together and get them to divest themselves of their own personalities and approaches. People often confuse a solid team ethic with a cultish devotion to a single way of doing things. The truth is, no successful team will ever be made up of ten clones who high-five at the end of every team huddle. You’ll have introverts and extroverts, and each of these people will do their best work in different settings and circumstances. Embrace the difference among your team, and accommodate different ways of working, because what matters is that everyone reaches their goals and does what is needed to make sure their teammates can reach theirs.

Myth: The team that socializes together wins together

The idea of corporate team building that includes big social occasions is a hard one to shift, but the reality is that not everyone enjoys socializing with workmates outside of work. Just bear in mind, your team could have an age range from 18 to 80, include members who are married and those who are single, have people who are teetotal and others who enjoy a few drinks on a night out. Large social occasions may seem like an optimum chance to reinforce the team ethic – but if you’re pulling a team member away from valued time with family, they can do the opposite. If people want to socialize together, great – but don’t make it an edict.

Myth: The best five individuals make the best team

Any good team will be up to more than the sum of its parts. If you’re into sports, here’s a thought experiment. Pick a full team with the best players you’ve ever seen in it – just squeeze them in wherever. Now, does that sound like a good team? Probably not, because even in the greatest sporting teams around there are unsung players who get things done and let the flair players take the credit. If you pick the best individuals and try to craft them into a team, you’ll find that they bump egos as they all want to do the more exciting work. Instead, pick the best people for the roles, order the custom tee shirts and leave them to it. Avoid picking multiple “Type A” personalities who will all be vying to be the star.

Myth: The best teams will agree on things

It’s all too common to expect a good team to work together almost telepathically, because if they have the same goal they’ll surely have the same ideas about how to achieve it. It’s actually better to have some moderate disharmony in a team, because ideas can’t be strong enough to work unless they are tested. A team member who specializes in sales, for example, might want to push the project towards a flashy, attention-grabbing conclusion while someone skilled in R&D might (legitimately) argue that this will result in customer complaints if the product doesn’t live up to the initial hype. The compromises and debates between team members are where you will find the best overall conclusion.

Myth: Every team needs a leader and should look towards them

One of the most misguided concepts in life and in business is the idea of an “Alpha” – usually an Alpha male. The Alpha is earmarked to be the one who leads everyone else and drags a project to completion by force of personality alone. The truth about “Alpha Males” is that the entire concept was based on a study of wolves in captivity and is not applicable to a wider context. It was never intended to be more broadly applicable, and your team does not need an Alpha. It’s much more important that it has several people who can stow their own ego to get the best result.

Myth: If you put enough creative people together, they’ll get the best result

In truth, a team is going to be most effective if they are working towards something predetermined. In other words, you shouldn’t present a team with an open-ended problem and expect them to solve it. Instead, have a problem and an ideal solution, and work towards the best way of achieving that solution. The more variables that are involved in a project, the more opportunity there is to drag the process off-target. A team can come up with the best solution overall, and may even change the initial concept some, but they need to be guided towards an ideal to begin with.

Teams are important in business, but all too often we are advised to abide by some “Dream Team” concept that fails to take account of the fact that every team is made up of individuals who have their own minds and their own motivations. It’s more important to have a team full of people who agree on one core point – the need to complete a project to the best possible conclusion – and to allow them to work together to achieve it.


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