One of the most important aspects of an organization’s success, is teamwork. We see examples of this in many areas of life. Whether it’s business, politics, sports or even our personal lives, teamwork plays an important role. Now of course, teamwork doesn’t magically solve all challenges and overcome all obstacles in the workplace. But it does help foster better communication, trust, knowledge and eventually success.
Babe Ruth once said “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime”. He was arguably the greatest baseball player ever that clearly understood and demonstrated the importance of teamwork. There are so many examples of athletes and great leaders that talk about the importance of working as a team. Let’s face it, being able to depend and trust your coworkers is priceless! When people come together and combine their skills and knowledge, the boundaries of certain tasks that once seemed overwhelming tend to disappear.
Let us not forget that it takes individuals to create teamwork. It sounds so easy, but as we all know, people have very different personalities and sometimes objectives. These personal goals and identities are some of the challenges faced when trying to establish a strong team. But if people believe in their organization and honestly strive for success, teamwork is possible and personal goals will be achieved. Having an open mind and remembering that communication, responsibility, honesty, empathy, collaboration and awareness are some of the key factors that will help achieve teamwork and ultimately success.
One of my greatest professional experiences came when I was working as a supervisor overseeing a small manufacturing team. First, let me provide some background. I have worked for several companies in a manufacturing role. I’ve always tried to learn my job responsibilities while working closely with my coworkers. Earlier in my career I noticed some of the members of a group I was part of would not share their experience or knowledge. I identify this as a group, because in my experience not all individuals working together constitute a team. An environment with individuals working closely together without combining their attributes leads to several problems. One issue that always seems to arise in this situation is an unhealthy competition. When this occurs, tension within the group starts to rise, people began to shut down and eventually the entire group suffers. Oddly enough, the entire group suffers because of an individual mentality.
Thinking of that statement, wouldn’t it just be easier to work together, communicate with one another and share knowledge and experience? The answer seems obvious. But none the less, this is one example of the experiences I have had in my past, and one of many I have faced. Looking back at this, I now understand why most great leaders provide examples of teamwork.
Teamwork starts with leadership. If people in charge ignore the importance of teamwork, then a team environment will never develop. That may be an unfair statement, because people can still come together even when leadership fails to support them. However, if a leader doesn’t recognize this or appreciate it, it will eventually impact the team negatively.
Now on to my greatest experience. I was working as a production supervisor with eight direct reports. I used the knowledge I had gained over the years to ensure these eight individuals worked closely as a team. It started with the interview process as the first step in assembling the team. People often take this process for granted and become focused solely on job knowledge and experience. They forget to identify what type of personality the individual has. Asking key questions often allows the interviewer to quickly see a person for who they are and what they are seeking professionally. As a leader, it then becomes your responsibility to identify if this person along with their experience will fit the company’s culture. This is just the first step when setting out to establish a strong productive team.
Once the team is finally assembled, communication and training then become essential. This is the crucial part. Remember, if people aren’t willing to communicate and share, then the outcome will usually end in failure. So, establishing trust within the group and demonstrating as a leader that you identify how each person’s contributions impact the team helps to avoid that individual mentality.
Using this approach these eight individuals worked hard and became what is to date, the best team I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. As a leader, each day was rewarding working with people that always looked out for each other, shared knowledge and communicated on all process operations. Our ability to form a strong team contributed to the success of company, team and personal goals! That experience has taught me the importance of teamwork. I continue to carry the lessons I learned during that time with me throughout my career.
I will leave you with a quote from an individual who not only created the assembly line, but a company with a philosophy that has enabled it to be an industry leader to this day.
Always remember teamwork is obtainable, but it doesn’t come easy. “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success”. – Henry Ford