All About Teamwork

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR 

A team is best defined as a combination of a highly communicative group of people. Poor communication, therefore, means no team. 

A team should also, doubtless, have members with different backgrounds, skills and abilities. This would help to ‘pool’ optimal resources for it to be effective. In other words, a team with no diversity is not likely to work in an innovative manner.

According to Mark Sanborn, a specialist on teams — whose significant work forms the basic fulcrum of this piece — a team must have a shared sense of mission. Because, even when we talk about a temporary work improvement team, or branch, all members ought to share a sense of undertaking the team advocates as one entity.

A team should have clearly identified goals. Besides, it must be able to assess its success, and know what it’s trying to accomplish.

Now, the big question: how does a team differ from a work group?

Here goes —

Competitiveness. Work groups tend to compete inwardly with members competing against each other for favour, recognition etc. High-performing teams vie, but with those outside of the organisation

Focus. Work groups tend to be task-oriented and are characterised by members who follow their own personal agendas. High-performing teams are goal-oriented; they do not pull each other in different directions

Style. Work groups tend to be autocratic and hierarchical in nature. Teams, on the other hand, are inclined to be participative and self-steering within the goals of the team

Acceptance. Work groups tend to tolerate each other, while teams have a leaning to accept each other. Differences in teams are welcome and encouraged; in work groups, differences and disagreements are suppressed

Risk. Work groups are likely to avoid risk and maintain status quo. High-performing teams are evidenced to accept risk.

Leader’s Role

In simple terms, the leader, or manager, should play a pivotal role in setting up the appropriate environment for the development of teams.

It may also be mentioned that many leaders, or managers, are quite often inclined to stimulate the development of high-performance teams, but do not see themselves as active players in the process.

Sometimes, this comes from a certain incorrect notion that a team should be self-contained and owned by team members. Yes, teams should be owned by its members, but with a clear focus.

Also, if a leader wants to encourage team functioning, it is most likely that they, as the spearhead, need to change. If they don’t, any team approach is destined to malfunction.

So, there we are, more so, when you look at teams in other contexts, because you will quickly realise that leadership determines success.

A cricket team, for example, has a coach; a symphony orchestra has a conductor. Agreed — that these teams don’t spontaneously develop without effective leadership. However, they can develop and grow with the help and guidance of a leader whose job is not to control, but to teach, encourage, and organise, when necessary.

The Leader As Catalyst

One appropriate word to describe the role of the leader is — catalyst. A force that makes things happen for other people, and the team, a leader’s role is critical, but it is subject to change over the lifespan of the team-building process.

In the beginning of the process of team-building, team members may need a good deal of help developing their mission and purpose, identifying what they want to accomplish. In addition, they need to look at interpersonal and group skills, such as conflict resolution, meeting management aspirations etc.

In other words, they may also need constant reminders that the leader is earnest about the team — meaning, that its activities and decisions, or recommendations, will be implemented wherever possible. Yes, the leader may also be called upon to act as a mediator, when disagreements cannot be resolved by team members.

Also, when a team grows and matures, the leader might become an equal team member. In addition, they would also need to concur whether, or not, the team requires any on-going involvement.


There are certain important leadership factors that can affect the team-building process, its vitality, and success. These factors are applicable to the formal work unit leader as much as team members who are performing in a leadership capacity.

Points To Ponder

It is imperative that teams have the following elements in place to do well, sustain, and also succeed —

  • Well-developed inter-personal skills and understanding of basic psychology as to what makes people perform
  • Recognise the importance of balancing between tasks — getting the job done — and, people. In other words, team members need to be also satisfied with the process of getting the work done
  • Leaders and team members should have a readiness to listen and the facility to communicate well. They should also possess the ability to listen and understand, not merely talk and control
  • They need to have a constancy of purpose. Leaders must also commit themselves to the team; they should not give up when the going gets tough, or success is an uphill task
  • Leaders must behave in a consistent manner, regarding team-work. It may be mentioned that leaders sometimes encourage team process and sometimes bypass the team. This will perplex everyone. When leaders don’t have consistency, nobody takes them, or their teams, seriously.

A leadership model is always most desirable. Remember, every team takes its cues from its leader, or manager.  You cannot break inter-personal rules, not listen, and use autocratic prerogatives, and expect members of your own team to believe that you really adding value working together.

You need to deal with problems effectively. Sometimes a team does not have the internal resources to deal with a member who is not supportive and/or unskilled in group behaviour. This can lead to a chasm.

The bottom line is simple. It connotes how a leader, or manager, is able to coach when necessary, problem-solve, or establish consensus and mediate. This will, in so doing, determine their effectiveness in managing barriers and getting the best out of team-players who may not always be co-operative.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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