In 2002, I worked at a telecom company in Tulsa and we participated in an event called Corporate Challenge. It was basically a corporate olympics in which the goal of some people was to claim gold. The goal for the rest of us was to not get embarrassed. I filled out my form; choosing the events I wanted to compete in. As I completed my registration, a realization hit me that all the events I chose were team sports. Even though I fancied myself a decent outside shooter in basketball, I had foregone the 3-Point contest.
This is when I realized how much being part of a team means to me.
There is something about the interdependence and camaraderie of teamwork that appealed to me. To this day, I cherish helping a group achieve a common goal. Even as I type these words, there is something that wells up inside me. And yet, I feel as though teamwork is cliché in the minds of many folks today. The word brings to mind inspirational posters with a team rowing a boat or business people running a relay race.
To talk about teamwork seems like a bit of motherhood and apple pie… but I’m going to do it nonetheless. Mostly because I feel like there are very practical benefits which are overlooked. Also, I believe that in today’s ego-driven, leadership-crazed business culture we could probably use a little motherhood and apple pie to ground us.
So, here are four hidden benefits of teamwork I believe are important.
- It increases employee engagement.
Jim Ryan at Soft Skills for Hard Jobs advocates Morning Check-In Meetings to increase employee engagement. I know organizations who call it their “Morning Huddle.” Sounds like a team to me. These are short meetings held at the same time every work day. The team members share what they’re working on that day. This improves communication, identifying issues and strengthening relationships. (Hat tip to Karin Hurt at Let’s Grow Leaders)
- It helps employees load-balance their work.
When working as an individual, there is no one else to look to when your workload becomes overwhelming. In healthy teams, colleagues will sense when a teammate’s burden becomes too much. Lauren Weber’s article from the Wall Street Journal blog advocates a team approach to balancing work and personal life. She refers to BlackRock experimenting with teams sitting down regularly to have members share time constraints with each other and work out solutions.
- It increases inclusion.
A recent Fortune article encouraged looking past job titles and taking a more team-centered approach:
“To combat that tendency when assigning people to projects, consider who has the passion, knowledge, and networks to succeed — independent of that person’s title. If this is not politically possible, then think about creating two-person teams or small groups that include people with the necessary expertise.”
- It accelerates the speed of work.
Former Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore is attributed with saying, “… why do you try to form a team? Because teamwork builds trust and trust builds speed.” It’s hard to run a race when you’re watching your back. Knowing your team has your back allows you to run full speed ahead.