The best teams are synergistic; that is their whole is greater than the sum of their parts. Building, developing and sustaining effective teams means acknowledging much more than a group of individuals but recognising the team as a separate entity. Read our article, Building Effective Audit Teams in conjunction with the Audit Advantage series for advice, resources and information on managing people but don't forget that it is not all about what we do to them (the people we manage) but as much about ourselves as team players...
'Never underestimate your power to change yourself. Never overestimate your power to change others', H. Jackson Brown.
Let's look at how we as individuals can become better team members, as participants, leaders or servers of teams. But first, what actually is a team?
From group to team to teamwork
All teams are groups, but all groups are not necessarily teams. Groups might share common characteristics or be related to one another in some way (your peer group, for instance) but a team shares a goal, regardless of any ancillary mutual traits. And don't confuse 'team' with 'teamwork'; the latter is a positive descriptor of the benefits or output of being a team. There are good, bad and indifferent teams, but teamwork is a noun that describes that crucial synergy where the whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts.
Forget the 'i'; there are six Cs in teamwork!
To be an effective team-worker or to foster the teamwork of a team, you need to savvy about the key components that work together to optimize collective output.
- Convergence is quite simply 'coming together' and it describes the core of teamwork, the recognition, by members, of the team as a separate being in its own right (aka 'there is no I in team'!) There are an number of features than promote convergence, the first of which is:
- Common purpose. It almost goes without saying that a common goal is what brings a team together in the first place, but it is the ability of the members to each embrace the common purpose that makes great teamwork. Individual objectives are important but teamwork requires shared objectives too and this means linking and aligning singular goals to the bigger picture.
- Collaboration is all about working together. It ensures that individual goals and values are not followed in isolation but collectively, team-aligned and communally. Collaboration is typically characterised by strong relationships, trust and mutual respect and it will usually require an overt team process to promote, support and encourage 'sharing'.
- Communication is an important element of collaboration. Open, honest and timely, communication should be set as a core team value. If you are lucky, it may happen organically, but don't just rely on luck! There need to be in place, processes and mechanisms that encourage communication (from ground rules and team protocols to forums and feedback) which, in turn, will be vital in supporting...
- Contribution. The whole tenet of teamwork is leveraging the collectivity of the team; lack of, or excess contribution from individual members can seriously jeopardise this. Like communication, it is ill-advised to rely on optimum contribution just happening. There are many reasons why contribution may be lacking, absent or inappropriate, not least that a team protocol hasn't been agreed by all members. Contribution requires that members understand their roles, goals and what is expected of them and everyone feels comfortable and confident to voice constructive criticism and transcend the constrictions of hierarchy in delivering value.
- Co-ordination. We've mentioned team roles, team values, individual and common goals and the importance of alignment; co-ordination is what melds all of these together to make the individual components work together in harmony. Effective co-ordination will require planning, monitoring and ongoing organisation to ensure that output is much more than a series of unrelated work streams. There should, of course, be a central co-ordination role, but each and every one of the members is co-ordinator of their own tasks and responsibilities. On time delivery, personal ownership and individual accountability are all crucial to true team-working.
'None of us is as smart as all of us', Kenneth H. Blanchard
I said it before and I'll say it again; the best teams are synergistic, you get more, and better output from a team working together effectively than you ever could from a collection of individuals, working alone. It all comes down to teamwork, when members act together to harness the collective benefit of the team. Leader, player, server of teams, we all have a part to play; take some time to work through our six point checklist and ask yourself how well you are playing your part?