Teamwork: Businesses’ most overused word

Remember a time when the word teamwork was only used to refer to avsports team or your children’s extracurricular activities? Now it seems to pop-up in every job description, company meeting, and business book everywhere I look. In a recent article by Fortune, they state “new research from a trio of management experts finds that over the past 20 years, the amount of time employees are spending on collaborative tasks has surged by roughly 50%.” Even more shocking in the same article they state that some managers are reporting that their employees spend about 80% of their time on collaborative tasks.

When Teamwork works

Let me say straight off the bat that there are situations where a “team” is a good thing in business. An example of this is in a sales team where you have your opener and your closer. These are both important roles that work better together than alone. Or in advertising, a great copywriting and art direction team is an indispensable resource for a firm.

 

When it Doesn’t

My issue does not lie in the fact that people work together to reach a common goal; it is that a team, or teamwork, is not always the right answer to every business problem, situation, or need. I hear countless stories about people meeting for 6 hours a day, and having to do all of their actual work after hours. I hear about candidates who were top performers at their previous jobs all of a sudden barely turning a profit because they now have to work and get everything approved by a team instead of being able to work independently.

One of my biggest issues with teamwork is that it forces compromise from everyone. Companies spend all this time to hire the best and brightest talent, and then force them to work in a team where their ideas and specialties are now one of many. They are being forced to collaborate with people who may not understand their specialties or want to continue to work the way they have always worked. This has a real possibility of killing creativity, innovation and productivity.


The Solution?

• Empower Your Employees – Many employees are bottlenecked from moving forward on a project by forcing full team input or waiting until a team meeting to review work. Employees should feel empowered to take initiative and move the project along if they are feeling confident in their direction. Most companies hire employees because of their skill set and their unique perspective. Employee empowerment is critical to have a constructive work environment and happy employees.
• Collaborate at will – Instead of forcing teams to get together on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, allow your employees to collaborate when they feel the time is right. This will cut down on unnecessary meetings and boost productivity.
• Treat everyone as an individual – One of the main issues with teamwork is that people see it as a one size fits all solution to a department’s problems. In reality, a department is made up of individuals who all have different needs and work at different speeds and in different ways. A group of introverts are going to do much better with fewer meetings and interruptions. A group of creative individuals that love to collaborate will do better if they have the freedom to collaborate as they please, instead of in a controlled, inorganic environment.

 

This is a tricky subject and one that has been written about quite a bit recently in the news. It would be great to hear your thoughts on the subject and any experiences you or your colleagues have had.

 

Looking forward to reading your stories!