Teamwork is generally a misunderstood, misused term. Many have only a hint of what teamwork really is. Some think it is about getting along. Others think it is about getting along well. Among other things, teamwork is about understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses and the roles of the other teammates in order to perform optimally. Fortunately, getting along is often (not always) a consequence of understanding.
Optimal teams in any environment work best when each player is:
- in great condition,
- understands their role well,
- understands their teammates’ roles well; and
- understands how these roles work together.
On a basketball team, a guard who knows her position, knows how she relates to the other positions, and is willing to forego glory for herself to advance the team’s goal(s) is poised to exploit the talents of the others and adjust for their deficiencies.
The human body is a team. The eyes do their part and see. The ears know their role and hear. The feet walk. They all understand their roles, but just as much they understand how they work together. If the feet decide all of a sudden that they can see just like the eyes, or if the ears decide they should walk, that body is going to have severe problems.
People who can’t see can often hear better than others. The “teammate” that is deficient (eyes) is supported by another “teammate” (ears) to help the entire body function optimally. The ears don’t try to see, they just hear better…for the body’s sake.
Workplace teams are at their best when every person on the team knows their position/role, their strengths and weaknesses, how they contribute to the team, AND they understand the other roles/positions. They don’t have to be experts at anything but their own job, but have to have enough of an understanding about another’s to make reasonable adjustments if and when necessary and to be able to use the other positions for all they’re worth.