On Teams:  A Blog About Team Effectiveness

Teamwork matters and there's data to prove it

Written by Scott Tannenbaum on .

People talk about teamwork a lot, but does teamwork pay off? When a cynical business leader says "I don't care about teamwork, what I care about is results," what can you tell him? Tell him teamwork gets results and there's some team science to prove it.  So, what do the data reveal...?

Jeff LePine, Ron Piccolo, Christine Jackson, John Mathieu, and Jessica Saul examined over 130 team effectiveness studies. They used meta-analysis to quantify what most of us know from experience – teamwork matters. Teams that demonstrate better teamwork processes are more likely to believe their team can succeed, are more committed to their team, and most importantly, they are about 20 to 25% more likely to succeed.

I've noticed that some business leaders separate teamwork from results. They subtly convey the message that there is a time for fun (teamwork) and a time to work (taskwork), but you shouldn't let teamwork get in the way of taskwork. In reality, teamwork isn't just about having fun or building camaraderie; it's about coordination and collaboration towards a goal. It involves behaviors such as monitoring and providing backup for teammates; building a plan and assessing progress; holding one another accountable; and keeping each other well informed.

Not surprisingly, LePine and his colleagues found that teamwork is most important when team members need to rely on one another for information or support to get the job done. That sure sounds like most of the teams that I've been on. So, let's not view teamwork as a vacation from taskwork. Teamwork is an integral part of how high-performing teams get things done.

Have you ever worked with or for a leader who viewed teamwork as a distraction to accomplishing "real work"?


# Erik 2012-11-11 08:48
I find that leaders are willing to spend money to "help the team" when expenditures focus on "hard" resources such as technology. However, spending money or time on "soft" training like teamwork often falls to the bottom of the list. This research demonstrates that teamwork is important. How do we convince leaders to spend time on "soft" skills?
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# Scott 2012-11-11 12:13
Erik -- some leaders seem to understand the importance of teamwork, usually because they have seen how it produced results. For leaders who don't yet see the value, I find it can help to discuss teamwork in terms of specific behaviors that they and others on the team can take, rather than discussing teamwork as an attitude (which can feel "soft" to them). I try to focus on teamwork behaviors that have a clear a line of sight to performance/res ults. So, for example, I might discuss the importance of backup behavior within the team, and how that can affect customer service.

And of course, for scientific types, I show them the team research findings!
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