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The importance of teamwork in the workplace

Last week I attended a business conference in Atlanta, Ga. The most inspirational session was a presentation by keynote speaker Pat Lencioni.

Patrick Lencioni is the founder and president of The Table Group, an internationally-respected consulting firm that works with companies to develop effective and cohesive leadership and work teams.

Lencioni is also a dynamic speaker and writer. He is the author of several books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. This book was written 12 years ago, is still on best-sellers lists today, and one I refer to regularly.

His more recent book, The Advantage, is excellent! In this book, Lencioni presents an “overwhelming case that organizational health will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage.”

So if genuine teamwork is gaining credibility as the ultimate competitive advantage in business, why is it so difficult to achieve?

The fact is, it takes knowledge, commitment and perseverance to make it a reality.

Over the past 10 years, working with over 100 businesses in the region, I’ve yet to work with a business that has not encountered issues related to building and maintaining high-functioning teams.

The symptoms are often described as office politics, emotional drama, loss of productivity, frustration related to hiring and retaining staff, the perceived lack of responsibility and accountability. The concept of teamwork is fairly common: a group of people working to reach their goal(s). Individuals bring personal skills, strengths and abilities together in order to produce a desirable end.

Teamwork is something experienced early in childhood. Kids catch on early.

Your first model is the family unit. If a family values and displays open communication and personal differences, plus expects conflict to be dealt with in a positive manner, there is a good chance these values will be carried forward into adulthood.

If not, a lifetime of mistrust and destructive problem-solving is usually the outcome.

Children encounter teams every day. Schools now design classrooms and activities so that students work collaboratively on projects while developing leadership skills.

Athletics and team sports can develop skills and self-confidence while setting high team standards. This depends on good leadership and supportive coaching. Too often, winning at all costs is the experience.

So it’s obvious that our lifetime of experiences are carried forward into the workplace, an area where we spend most of our waking hours each day.

With the rapid world-wide changes, business can no longer rely on individual effort to succeed.

Many companies are separated by substantial distances; people aren’t present at the same work site.

Today’s reality is that organizations will encounter employees with diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences.

The ability to lead and work in a team environment is critical. Business owners and managers want staff who are responsible and accountable for their share of the outcome. Staff want to trust management, and be treated fairly and with respect.

Developing teams that are capable of communicating and working together effectively increases efficiencies and productivity.

The first requirement is the belief that a cohesive team is a valuable asset.

Then learning the key principles and integrating them into a business is necessary.

It is possible to create a culture of teamwork.

It takes a willingness to tackle the difficult transition.

I believe that the values in true teamwork sustain individuals and promotes overall wellbeing.

These qualities are what healthy businesses are looking for.

Establishing a team culture is the responsibility of the leaders first.

Creating or changing this culture is not without challenges. There are many pros and cons, depending on the issues. However results will outweigh the resistance.

Getting your team to understand and value that thinking, planning, decision-making and actions get better results when tackled co-operatively.

Look for more details in building cohesive teams in upcoming columns.

ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at or by phone at 403-340-0880.



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