Teamwork is a feeling?

four people walking while holding each others arms
Photo by on

This Tuesday we had our company strategy gathering. Among other things we were discussing what could be the actions behind our core values. One of the values is teamwork. Even though this word has a clear meaning for me, I found it extremely hard to write down certain actions. I wrote: “Respect, help and trust each other, believe in your team, share vision and be open.” As a reply I was told that it is too general, it doesn’t really give a clue what to do differently starting from today to achieve teamwork. And I agree. It is vague.

So, I asked help from Google. I found endless definitions of what benefits teamwork brings and several vague definitions like my own. Then I googled popular heading: “5 most important actions for better teamwork”. Result was long list of all the usual – communicate, brainstorm, celebrate, clarify purpose etc. All true, of course. There are a lot of specific steps you can take. Some of them I have even shared in this blog, but… none of them work alone. You can do brainstorms and still have no teamwork. You can chit-chat everyday and still have no teamwork. You can do team retros, honest feedback and again, still have no teamwork.

Vague/general things are hard to measure and teamwork is measured very rarely. “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” (written by Daniel Coyle) proposed 5 ways to measure teamwork:

  • Everyone in the group talks and listens approximately in roughly equal measure.
  • Members maintain high levels of eye contact and their conversations and  gestures are energetic.
  • Members communicate directly to each other, not through team leader.
  • Members carry on side conversations within the team.
  • Members constantly go explore outside the team and bring information back to share with the others.

This sentence from the same book gathers it for me: “Teamwork does not descend out of the blue. It is a group muscle that is built according to a specific pattern of repeated interaction and that pattern is always the same – a circle of people engaged in a risky occasionally painful ultimately rewarding process of being vulnerable together.” That is even more vague than the one I wrote on Tuesday. Or is it? This sentence has a meaning for me. It explains it for me. It has feeling in it. Could it be that teamwork is just a feeling? Like love? You can achieve it through millions of different ways. There are lots of books and articles teaching ‘how to do it better’, but there is no real formula as the formula includes variables called human beings who are not rational. All you can do is experiment until you find it. What works with one team, doesn’t work with the other. Isn’t that the most fascinating type of formula? It takes creativity to get there. I guess this is why we have creativity as one of our key values as well. 🙂

All in all, I still love teamwork. I believe in teamwork. And I admire cultures that create environments where teamwork is endorsed. I do believe that with teamwork 2+2=10.