How teams work together is changing quickly. As some organizations shift toward a more flexible model of hybrid working, others are returning to the office to take advantage of in-person collaboration. But while these changes have created new ways of working, the fundamentals of great teamwork remain unchanged.
Teamwork is primarily about how people interact with one another. Great teamwork happens when the skills and attributes of a group’s individual members can be combined in an effective way.
But even those factors don’t always guarantee that a group of people will work well together. Other variables can have an impact on teamwork too: the company’s outlook, the attitudes of leaders, the structure and hierarchy of the group, and more.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the core characteristics of great teamwork, why it’s important to try to build good teams within an organization, and how leaders can help create the ideal conditions for truly effective teamwork to flourish.
What does teamwork mean?
Teamwork can be defined as the combined effort of a group to achieve a shared goal. It’s the secret sauce that makes a team’s output more than just the sum of the efforts of its individual members.
Where this teamwork comes from can seem like a mystery—and not every group ends up working well together. On paper, you might think that pairing two of your most talented minds would double their effectiveness. In reality, it might halve it or triple it, or result in something else.
Understanding the characteristics of great teamwork and how they apply to the people around you can help you build teams that don’t fall to pieces.
Why it’s important to have great teamwork
As a leader, it’s safe to assume that one of your main goals is the success of your business. Teamwork can make reaching that goal more likely. Teams solve problems more quickly by sharing knowledge. Teams work more efficiently by sharing responsibilities. And teams promote stronger relationships between employees.
When people are part of an effective team, they’re encouraged to do their best work in an environment that’s trusting and supportive. They feel empowered to not only pursue the shared goal of the team but to work toward their personal goals too. That sense of camaraderie is what helps to drive better overall performance, as people feel more invested in the success of the business they’re a part of.
Building great teams is the first step
To begin building a great team, you need a particular set of leadership skills. You should be able to identify the talents of your employees and how they mesh with the talents of others.
You should know how to assign the right tasks to the right people, and where they would be most effective in the group hierarchy. Consider the personalities of each member and how they could potentially clash with the rest of the group.
Beyond that, it’s up to the team and its leader to make it work. The very best teams are self-motivated and can quickly create solidarity and belonging within the group, which naturally leads to effortless, ongoing teamwork.
Characteristics of effective and great teamwork
Depending on the type of work they do, every team is going to look different. That means the definition of great teamwork changes too. What makes a good team working in bridge construction might not be the same as what makes a good team working at a dog café.
But as disparate as those examples are, there are certain characteristics that effective teams share. Here are nine of them:
- Good communication. Each member of the team should be able to communicate efficiently and openly with other members of the team. Interpersonal skills are as useful as writing skills in this context, as flexible teams are expected to switch between collaborating online and off-.
- Individual talent. Each member should bring their own experience, ambition, and specialist skills to the table, particularly when working on a high-performance team. Unique talents drive overall performance and help to cement a member’s place within the group.
- Team sense of belonging. Understanding where you fit into the wider team and how your skills interact with those of others will help create social bonds and build trust and order within the group.
- Strong leadership. There’s a big difference between managers and leaders. The person in charge should be able to inspire their team, communicate the company’s vision, and encourage individuals toward a shared goal.
- Clear structure. A simple and well-understood hierarchy is an important feature of effective teamwork. Knowing the structure of the team helps with decision-making and conflict resolution.
- Achievable goals. Unrealistic targets can be like kryptonite to great teamwork. If people sense that success is impossible, enthusiasm for the work can fall by the wayside. When negative feelings are shared by teammates, they can become compounded, causing collaboration to suffer.
- Feedback. Teams need feedback to learn and grow, and leaders who rarely offer it can unwittingly foster a competitive workplace environment in which teamwork may struggle to flourish.
- Positive attitude. Confidence is infectious—as long as there’s not too much of it—and a positive outlook can quickly spread throughout a team. Great teamwork comes about when leaders and workers believe in the mission of the business and want to see it succeed.
- Solution-focused teams. Nobody can predict the future, but great teamwork allows groups to adapt to challenging new conditions, and to remain focused on solutions rather than dwelling on problems.
Great teamwork happens wherever great teams can be together. Whatever ways your teams collaborate, you should have an office that fits your company’s unique needs. WeWork designs workplace solutions with flexibility in mind, creating customized hubs that help foster better teamwork.
Whether you’re looking to downsize your existing headquarters or create a centralized hub with the high-spec amenities to enable teamwork and innovation, WeWork provides beautifully designed, adaptable workspaces with flexible terms.
For even greater flexibility, WeWork All Access and On Demand let you and your teams access workspaces and meeting rooms in hundreds of locations across multiple cities, so they can do their best work wherever they are.
Steve Hogarty is a writer and journalist based in London. He is the travel editor of City AM newspaper and the deputy editor of City AM Magazine, where his work focuses on technology, travel, and entertainment.