Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

The Myth of Teamwork


Here is teamwork as defined by most of the organizations I’ve ever worked with:

  1. Everyone as a team must agree with the leader.
  2. When there’s a project to do, we divide into groups (I.e., committees) to do tasks one person ends up doing.
  3. The room becomes an echo chamber of groupthink. Any dissension is considered contrarian.
  4. You’re not a “team player” if you have your own ideas (ideas that don’t jibe with those of the leader or the groupthink).

It is possible for an organization to have too much teamwork.

Here’s teamwork the way I understand it now:

  1. Start with strengths: Everyone on this team has something to contribute. Objectively know what that is. Require everyone on the team to go through StrengthsFinders 2.0 training. (Let me know. I can walk through this training with your team).
  2. Understand team personalities: Some people work best alone. Some people work best in a group. Some need time to process information in their heads. Some need to process information out loud. Everyone on your team is created and wired differently. It’s the leader’s job to figure out how. And to get people into a place where they will thrive.
  3. Measure the right things: Teamwork that begins and ends with brainstorming and discussion is a lot of “team” without much of the actual “work” part. One of the most important tasks of leadership is to measure the right things. Productive teamwork means ongoing accountability.
  4. Mission, Value, and Goal alignment: A shared vision begins with a shared mission, values, and goals. A team doesn’t have to start with vision. Not everybody is a “big picture” person. That’s the job of leadership. But a team needs to be in productive alignment. Shared values. Shared goals. Shared mission.

Support the right kind of teamwork.

Piling more of the wrong kind of teamwork on top of the wrong kind of teamwork makes for a large pile of trash.