Teamwork – Why You Can't Afford To Be A Solo Fighter On The Job
Article by Christopher Grahn
The myth of the ultra-competitive, singular high performer is just that: a myth. If you want to advance in your career and make a real difference, you have to work constructively with others. After all, teamwork is the key to success. And ultimately, successful collaboration is not rocket science – if you keep a few things in mind.
Those who combine and build on each other's ideas and inspire each other develop more creative and better solutions together. This principle is clearly rooted in our biology – and crucial in the workplace.
What does good collaboration look like?
Generally, collaboration is defined as two or more people working together to solve a problem or create something. In this respect, the joint production of flint axes for mammoth hunting is not too dissimilar from project management in this millennium.
More specifically, teamwork on the job means that people with different expertise combine their knowledge and experiences to achieve certain results. It can take place virtually or face-to-face; it can span multiple departments or teams; and it can involve external expertise or remain within the organization.
Solo-fighters, on the other hand, might indeed be able to avoid complicated coordination and interpersonal friction by doing things on their own – but they are still likely to reach their limits much sooner. Both in terms of experience and know-how as well as regarding innovation and ideas. This points to one of the invaluable benefits of working collaboratively.
The benefits of teamwork
From an organization’s perspective, there are several advantages to fostering a collaborative culture as opposed to a competitive solo-fighter approach.
That more people bring more know-how to the table than one person is only logical. But it's how knowledge and ideas cross-pollinate that really drives creativity and innovative ideas. In the long run, teamwork results in more knowledgeable and better-trained employees – because knowledge is not hoarded and hidden, but shared and multiplied.
Cooperation also makes for stronger teams because pursuing a common goal, a shared vision, and success increases the social connections among employees. This, in turn, leads to higher engagement and loyalty: talented people stay.
Lastly, collaboration also leads to better hires. When employees feel motivated, involved, and valued, they will convey this to external parties. The organization thus builds an excellent reputation, which is one of the most crucial factors in attracting – and retaining – top talent.
And there are significant benefits for individuals as well. By helping others and working well together, you build a stable network over time and can draw on the support and knowledge of others when needed – an immense advantage. Successful teamwork can be a real career booster: collaborators who do excellent work and are sociable are more likely to be recommended and get outstanding references. This, too, is based on successful networking.
On the other hand, those who are exclusively concerned with their own advantage and performance will eventually find themselves isolated.
How can teamwork be implemented and fostered?
Create the right environment. The organization has to establish a culture where employees feel seen and safe enough to share half-baked ideas – in order to develop them together. That doesn't work in an extremely competitive environment consisting of solo-fighters. Trust is crucial. It is achieved through empathy and constructive feedback; self-profiling and devaluing others is counterproductive in teamwork.
Implement standardized processes for collaboration. This includes the questions of how communication is handled, how meetings should proceed, and how responsibilities are defined. Who is accountable for what? Create reliable guidelines, communicate changes, make sure everyone is on the same page.
Adapt to new ways of (team-)working. Especially the increasing remote/hybrid work poses an additional challenge for teamwork. This makes it all the more important to establish and adhere to specifically tailored work processes, rules, and means of communication. For example: keep an eye on virtual meeting hours – too much time in front of the screen on Zoom or Teams impairs motivation and well-being. And design online meetings for all attendees, not just for the most tech-savvy.
Select the right people. It is not effective to combine a bunch of brilliant individuals and expect top results. Teamwork is social, it requires a sincere willingness to work together and to step back into the second row when the task requires it.
Manage expectations. Ambitious goals are good, but they should sit within a realistic range. Anything else leads to frustration, demotivation, and tensions within the team. It must be transparent from the outset how success is measured. The more clearly the purpose and goals are defined, the more efficient and successful the teamwork will be.
So it is apparent that teamwork not only helps the company to achieve better results than the singular approach of the solo-fighter – individuals can benefit from it as well. With a little goodwill and commitment, cooperation can be implemented – and make a company very successful.