The importance of teams and teamwork

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This free article about teamwork by Derek Stockley highlights the role of teamwork in achieving improved organisation performance and better morale. Derek Stockley conducts one day leadership courses in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth .

Teamwork and leadership

In leadership training programs, I often ask participants to define teamwork. Working in different teams, their definitions are often similar.

A typical definition is:

A group of people, contributing their individual knowledge and skills but working together to achieve a common goal/task.

During discussions, most people agree that using teams and teamwork provides benefits to both individuals and organisations.

New ways of using teams

Modern technology and new ways of doing business are changing the ways we use teams, but the underlying principles and benefits remain.

Distance is less of a barrier. Many people find themselves in teams where individual team members are based all over the country, or in some cases, all over the globe.

In some companies, team members based in different time zones can progress a project 24 hours per day, six days per week. I know a growing Australian consulting firm that uses overseas based PowerPoint developers and editors for major reports and presentations. Consultants complete the drafts by late afternoon, and return to work the next morning to have the completed product waiting for them. This effectively saves one working day.

Virtual teams are increasingly common. Members of a team may never meet face to face. They collaborate from different parts of the word through telephone calls, email, file sharing technology and other online meeting methods.

Why the increased use of teams?

Organisations have embraced teams and teamwork as an effective way of doing business. The last 20 years has seen the replacement of 'supervisors' by 'team leaders'.

Companies have embraced these concepts because they work. Employee motivation and morale improves dramatically when people feel valued and when their contributions make a difference.

It is good to be part of something that is worthwhile.

Managing teamwork is challenging

Some organisations fail to gain the benefits that teamwork can provide.

Team composition is critical for success. The definition outlined above highlight three important teamwork fundamentals:

  • A team is a group of people made up of individuals who each contribute their individual knowledge and skills. Synergy, where the collective whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts, often occurs where teamwork is working well. Teams benefit because individuals often do not have all the knowledge and skills necessary.

  • Working together is essential. Harmony and a positive attitude are critical. If the team is not working together, then the expected gains will not materialise.

  • An understanding of the common goal/task is also critical. People have to be clear as to why the team exists and what the purpose is.

In the absence of any of the above three features teams will fail. Not everyone has a positive experience.

Teamwork has to be well managed. A balanced team composition is essential. Team members have to be carefully selected. The full range of knowledge and skills required must be present. Team members need to be committed to the task.

If you have the right team composition and approach, team synergy can take over. But it has to be set up correctly. The team members have to be willing and ready to participate.


Teamwork as a concept has grown over the last 20 years. However, teamwork success is not automatic. Teams have to be established for the right reasons. Team member selection is very important, as is ensuring that the team purpose is clear and agreed upon.

Personal reflection

Is teamwork used extensively in your organisation?

Are teams achieving what you expected?

Are teamwork problems being addressed?

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Importance of teamwork - this article explores the continuing discussion about the importance of teamwork, an important concept for successful organisations.

Achieving high individual and team performance - explores lessons learnt from examples of individual and team performance.

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Derek Stockley conducts a variety of public training courses in Australia.

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