Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Prescription for Effective Teamwork


The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime. – Babe Ruth


A recent Gallup report revealed what many have believed about teamwork for quite some time. The world’s top performing organizations understand that employee engagement is a force that drives performance outcomes. In the best organizations, engagement is more than a human resource initiative-it is a strategic foundation for the way they do business.

 The commitment of these top companies to a purposeful strategic plan that places an emphasis on employee engagement is not just lip-service but a fundamental component of its operation. The report highlights that in world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 9.57.1 whereas in average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 1.83.1

One shining example of an organization that understands the power of teamwork is the Mayo Clinic. Business Management Daily reports that after a diagnosis, patients at the clinic meet with a team of specialist who help them understand what’s happening so they can decide about their treatment together.

Asked why health care so often lacks collaboration that makes Mayo famous, president and CEO Denis Cortese traces the problem to medical schools, where he says students aren’t trained to work in teams. The problem is further complicated he says due to so many specialties and sub-specialties and that it’s difficult to take care of patients with five different conditions, and Cortese adds, “that requires teams.”

Is there a disconnect that exists in relation to our understanding of team concepts and the implementation of teamwork? Understanding the potential of teams and living out the reality of what successful teams can do is another. So how do we connect the dots and make sense of the power of teamwork. Here are three tips for consideration.

Personalize your definition of teamwork. The teamwork strategy for the Mayo Clinic may not be the best teamwork approach for your business. And while general principles such as communication may be standard, not all of the specific details will be the same. Simply put, find what works for you and do it.



It is important to remember what Gallup points out; employee engagement is the foundation of all top performing organizations. The key here is to personalize your definition of teamwork by including everyone, defining boundaries and objectives, and include routine performance assessments.

Promote a teamwork environment. The Gallup report sheds critical light on what happens when employees are actively disengaged in their organizations. It reveals that “disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line while breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process.” Gallup estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.

World-class organizations have placed employee engagement at the foundation of their operation. The promotion of teamwork and employee engagement is not a guarantee of success, but world-class organizations did not attain that status without it. Smart leaders promote an environment where teamwork thrives and people willingly contribute.

Prioritize teamwork initiatives. A patient at the Mayo Clinic will meet with a team of specialist to formulate a treatment plan that is best for that person. Within your organization are people with certain skill sets that best formulate the chemistry needed to tackle the objectives you seek to accomplish. The pairing of these individuals is critical to the success of the team and to the organization as a whole.

The chemistry of the team, not to mention the egos involved, can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. When leaders empower teams to think creatively, seek unconventional solutions to uncommon problems, and not worry about who gets the credit, great things can happen. The secret to unleashing your potential is in releasing the genius and power of teamwork.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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* This column originally appeared in the International Business Times.

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