Beware – Teamwork is not what you can rely on always!

So, Just in case you are a corporate guru reading this, I’m sure you already have your eyebrows puckered. But then, before you raise your arms in objection to the title statement, friend you need to hold on. I know teamwork was all what you preached, practiced and lived with all these years. Right from those childhood days when you started playing soccer, you have heard about the necessity of “teaming up for the right tactics”. “Collaboration” was the keyword that you came across in the school while rehearsing for your annual drama competition. Again, back in your management classes you heard about teamwork – perhaps, in a more refined way. It was while learning those long essays about organizations you realized that “teamwork” is no longer a child’s play. To sum it up, I know where you are heading towards. You are right, team work CAN work wonders.


But, having acquainted with the concepts of team in a variety of contexts, here is my obvious question to you. Despite of all those management theories that preach about the power of teamwork, as a corporate lad didn’t you face instances wherein you had felt that teaming up is not as sweet as you had actually thought? If your answer is yes, read on. This one is for you. Meanwhile, let me reiterate the point initially made – Yes, it is true that team work can work wonders; but ONLY if certain “if clauses” are attached to it. Talking very practically, it is all about unlearning some common myths that you have learnt all these years.

Myths about Teamwork

Myth 1: It is not me, but my team that matters!

That sounds like a very diplomatic attitude right? But in reality, this doesn’t work always. Be it a junior, a mid experienced administrator, a senior manager or a board member, individuality and recognition is all what everyone would wish for. Consider the instance where a team is assigned with a project. Though tagged as a team effort, the level of contributions put in by each member has to essentially vary. At the end, if it is only the team that is being rewarded without any special mention for the top contributors, chances are more that they would get demotivated. This might result in driving them a step backward in the future projects, thus adversely affecting the overall productivity of the team. A word of appreciation to the members of the crew who have stood tall to the keep the boat steady in the storm always deserves a special mention. This may also push the other members of the team to follow their path and get noticed.

Myth 2: Conflict?? A complete NO-NO

Every team has “unity” listed top among its principal philosophies. While it is true that mutual agreement and harmony are detrimental to the success of any team, it is also important for you to draw clear borders between agreement and submissiveness. Being in a team doesn’t actually mean that you need to agree to anything put forth by the team. As a team need not always be a group of likeminded people, it is always better to speak out your opinions and suggestions rather that suppressing them. With disagreements and healthy debates, novel opportunities for team betterment would be wide open. Sometimes, abiding by the opinion of other team members even by suppressing your ideas which you thought were better may result in decreased productivity from your end. Remember that you will be crucified for this. The best way out was to have said a “no-no” and tried convincing your seniors that your ideas would have ultimately thrown up better results.

Myth 3: Let’s go party! A healthy team demands it

If this was your boss’s motive every time he took you for an outing, sorry to say there’s nothing like that. Offsite events and ice breaking sessions can build rapport, but to what extend it can be helpful for the project is still a question. An article featured recently on LinkedIn reads like this – “Your Company is not a family”. It is human nature to differentiate between the personal and work life, no matter what the degree of flexibility that your job offers. Considering from an organization’s viewpoint, the best of team bonding happens inside the office and that too, during the course of work. Let the team sit together, discuss ideas, share resources, and help each other. The outcome would be more fruitful than what a team dinner or a weekend holiday could provide.

Myth 4: Bring in new faces for fresh ideas

When things don’t fall in place, this is what every organization does – hire some new people, may be from other teams within the organization or even external sources. Despite of the additional investments made on their recruitment and training, the new faces takes time to learn and adapt to the new ambience. Instead, the best method for the organization to derive immediate and long term results would be to harness the skill sets of the existing team. Longer a team can stay together, the better they get molded. Together, their experience, bonding, and collaboration are what can promote a better work environment than in the case of new hires. We have a feeling that bringing in new resources will divide the total work into many smaller chunks and the work hence would get reduced. This is a false concept. A fresher will always look on to a senior person for all the doubt that he has. The experienced guy may have to sit for many hours to train the new face and make him capable of doing the assigned task. The same task could have been completed by the senior person in no time. Ultimately, the whole process is like decreasing the productivity of the entire team. Hiring freshers doesn’t always work out in a busy project. It can be implemented only if there is enough time for the seniors to train them.

Myth 5: The leader says it all

The most common mistake that any team can make is to over depend on its leader. It must be true that the leader has an outstanding ability to lead from the front, but in the corporate environment this is not exactly what is expected. A good team should always be a synonym for collective responsibility. Instead, when authority is vested on the leader alone, there are chances for the other members, especially the senior ones to feel a little less involved. This can be more prominent if the team is an association of many eligible members, each competent in multiple ways for the team leader role. The best way to tackle this is to promote the concept of lateral leadership. Let the final word come from a team member and not necessarily the leader always. It is a common misunderstanding among teams that the magic lamp that gives path changing ideas always rests in some specific hands. This is to be changed. Opinions coming from even a junior member of the crew can be like a drop of ink into a glass of water. It can make the whole liquid colorful. So saying no to such ideas is a missed opportunity and also mentally affects the person who has put in the suggestion.

Myth 6: Big team for big results

It is a general notion to go for a big team just in case the scope of the project is a little elaborated than the usual norms. However, it is not always the right way to judge the capabilities of a team simply based on its size. An efficiently picked small team can often produce better results than a randomly picked bigger team. Your Grandma’s old ideology of “too many cooks to spoil the broth” holds good value here. Let the team contain only necessary people so that every single person in the team has an equally important role to play. Let them take ownership of their own roles and responsibilities rather than being supervised by a leader.

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