Traditionally one might say that a successful workplace is one that is humming along with robust sales, active meetings, with an ongoing plethora of presentations, PowerPoints, client calls, and of course, growing revenue.
All of that sounds dandy, but the core ingredient behind any (or most) successful companies is teamwork. Without teams, a company will be hard-pressed to produce great results.
A number of academic studies have been produced in recent years which prove that teamwork is essential to a healthy work environment, which is more likely to lead to and produce positive results for the bottom line. These papers are referenced below.
Working in an environment with clear and open communication can yield rapidly successful results, no matter the industry. Activities among teams, call it teamwork, involves the active discussing and collaboration of information and ideas, but with many points of view. Team members will all learn from each other, and discover new ways of thinking of aspects of a project, as well as benefits and holes.
In terms of how co-workers can effectively communicate, there are indeed tactical strategies to employ. A research paper for Clemson University outlines 4 aspects for proper communication within the prism of teamwork:
- Focus on the behavior or problem, not on the person. People become defensive when criticized personally. Keep the discussion focused on the task and the issues.
- Make sure what you say and what you do are the giving the same message. In other words, keep your verbal and nonverbal language on the same page. This limits confusion.
- Validate others’ contributions. Compliment team members on good ideas and suggestions. This makes them feel a part of the team and encourages future participation.
- Make sure everyone has a chance to speak.
Here are a handful of additional useful tips for communication.
Lean Structure vs Hierarchy
A natural organizational benefit of teams is the resulting lean structure that it produces. It cuts down (not completely) on middle management, and leads to greater freedom, innovation, and progress. This is not to say that middle managers are useless far from it in fact as Google learned the hard way that middle managers are indeed crucial to a company’s organizational success.
However, within a division, depending on the overall hierarchal setup, a team that is given freedom to create and operate is likely to succeed.
In an academic paper for Lund University School of Economics and Management, Professors Wang and Huzzard actually pointed to the manufacturing industry as proof that lean management has been recognized as succeeding more in recent years:
“Today, it appears, lean production not only remains popular in manufacturing but has evolved from the operational level to the strategic level (Hines et al, 2004) and to empirical domains beyond manufacturing to areas such as shoe manufacturers, the supply chain for personal computers, the food and farming supply chain, and healthcare…The lean approach percolates into ever wider circles of operations, it ceases to be about best practice and starts to become a part of the fabric of doing business.”
A team with relatively equal voices has become a crucial element to successful business practices.
There is also academic evidence that emotional support will help an employee reach his or her work goals. A research paper by Professor Kroth of the University of Idaho explains it: Emotional support is needed to cope with feelings such as anxiety, worry, or inadequacy that might sidetrack goal pursuit intentions.
A team is indeed ripe to provide emotional support, as it involves many coworkers working together, either alongside each other or in constant communication. In terms of how to provide emotional support, it can be as simple as avoiding overly harsh critiques when discussing one’s work, or as simple as checking in and asking how one is coping.
Emotional and psychological support can sometimes go beyond the workplace, which can have a reciprocal effect. Sending an office card is a rather simple and office-appropriate way to provide quick support to someone within the workplace realm, as it shows employees a human element of workplace teamwork. This team-related notion of emotional support leads to a much deeper discussion of workplace happiness and its benefits.
Though one might assume that competition can lead to infighting and credit taking and blaming, the opposite is true. Teamwork can rapidly increase competitiveness in the following ways:
- Improve overall productivity
- Improve quality of work and subsequently encourage innovation
- Improve employee motivation and commitment
- Recognition for improved work
Synergy is defined as the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. It’s not a stretch to connect this idea to businesses, and see how they can effectively succeed as a result of great teamwork.
Synergy can be felt most when in fact co-workers are not working together. A research paper from Edith Cowan University found significant evidence of a loss of synergy (which resulted in a loss of productivity) after co-workers were split up and told to work on competing tasks: Two team members were highly competitive in this team that negated the development of a synergistic team environment. They were highly focused on our own tasks and were not interested in helping others who may have been having problems.
It’s rather clear to see the devastating effect of a lack of synergy toward teamwork.
Teamwork is Crucial
By understanding the potential of teamwork and subsequently implementing it, a business can swiftly change both their organizational process as well as their bottom line. Communication, elements of lean structure, emotional support, healthy competition, and synergy are all core elements of teamwork which can put a business on the path to success.