Teamwork is a skill

Teamwork is a skill: Psychological safety, trust, collective eficacy, shared cognition

Many of us heard a belief that a team can be great or dead, it works well or it doesn’t work at all. It seems right, but it is a myth and simply not true. Let me explain why.

I truly believe teamwork is a skill, which can be learned and trained. Any person can be a team player, but they need to know how.

While some individuals naturally possess teamwork abilities, anyone can become a proficient team player with the right knowledge and guidance.

Understanding the dynamics of effective collaboration, communication, and cooperation is key. By learning the principles of teamwork, individuals can contribute positively to a team’s success, leveraging their unique strengths and actively participating in achieving shared goals.

However, teamwork as a skill will never overcome lack of capabilities.

Our brains love storytelling, so we fell in love with movies about the plucky, but talentless, underdogs who come together and achieve something big. Yeah, I also love science fiction.

Investing into your team is important, but find out that they are simply unable to perform well in absence of sufficient skill set to make required things happen. Find out if your team has a lack in key areas as it helps to solve disfunction by hiring a team member with this skills or train your mates to fulfil the gap.

Some leaders get crazy about a talent and get the best of the best in their teams and then find out that their top performance is far away of the expectations. How come it is possible? I’m absolutely sure the best of the best will make the best team ever, wouldn’t they? Now I have a Hollywood blockbuster scene in my eyes, where the team of the bestmake impossible and win. Fiction again.

n my point of view, we better look into a teamwork as a capability. Being a team member is not just an attitude, it is a specific skill which can be learned or hired, like project management or technical skills.

There are six team-building capabilities:

1. Asking questions and active listening — meaning that there is no fear to ask questions related to mutual work, questions which help team to think deeply about their tasks, revealing tiny details on what should be done;

2. Giving feedback and receiving feedback from others. Read our story of helping Matt with this topic. It is important because it can open eyes on some aspects which we ignored or thought unimportant. In my practice it is very common mistake of forgetting to give a feedback or ignore feedback from others.

3. Working within controlled conflict. I’m a big fan of catching problems before they occur and rising red flags, signalling of potential issue is something what initiates conflict — as we are all different, we have different views on the problems and it’s quite difficult to find them yourself, but once found by others it might create a conflict. The main detail here is how you behave when an issue found. Here it makes sense to read a topic of why we become angry, what is assertiveness. Any conflict isn’t easy to overcome, some of them can get into a crisis.

4. Interpersonal skills like empathy, an ability to build a trust between team members, do not create small tribes within a team. I meet with such situations when worked with subcontractors.

I also would like to emphasise that if there is a luck of some specific technical skills, you can solve it by additional training or hiring a person with specific skills. It might be acritical for you moving forward without this skill. If it is so, concentrate on scouting for thisskill.

People work better within the team if they feel a psychological safety — it is a strong feeling that you wouldn’t get in trouble because you disagree with someone’s opinion or make mistake or even ask for a help. It is important to have a personal chat if there is a problem or you’re not happy about your team member actions, rather than criticise publicly. One of the top predictors of team performance is psychological safety.

Every one know that building trust in the team is important. No more words about it — here is a topic with lots of useful posts about it.

Collective efficacy is when your team assumes any difficult tasks as a challenge ratherthan an obstacle. Failures is not a reason to give up. There is a way, you need to try make things differently. Support your team members when difficult times and celebrate when something is achieved.

Communication is a basic and crucial skill where how good you communicate and share is much more important of how much and how frequently. Try to balance frequency with quality — useful information, clearly and on time. Have you head about closed-loop communication? This is a way to insure that all the details are clear — give information, check if it is understood correctly (How? asking questions!) and correct it if something isn’t right.

Team members share a common purpose and priorities will work harder on tasks and demonstrate better results. Do you remember my words about a tribe — it is the same here, only common purpose will empower your people on doing good what they are doing. Not salary, not a corporate car, not a food or free-coffee — only common purpose. Shared understanding of their roles and tasks leads to effective monitoring and coordination. How to make it? Set and share a clear directions, priorities and goals. It should be clear — what we all want to achieve. Promote learning and adaptation. As more people learn as happier they are (am I right?)). Encourage participation.

People don’t work in vacuum. When conditions are unfavorable, your team will struggle. It is a leadership role to insure that conditions are good (or better great), so team moves toward their goals and not thinking it is moving to right direction. I have seen situations where team members hide information and support plan given from the top — it is an example of unfavourable condition.

I also recommend you to read interesting articles:
Leadership — understanding people, listening and giving feedback
Being a true leader is not just about holding a formal job title

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