How to develop good teamwork

There are very many factors involved in the development of a good team. However, here we shall concentrate on three in particular, namely: communication, team balance and leadership. Communication is clearly an important part of interpersonal interaction and, of course, teamwork is all about interpersonal interaction. Open communication is a fundamental part of good teamwork in so far as it allows team members to understand each other’s point of view, to share ideas, to express feelings and to articulate plans. Poor communication can be a major barrier to effective teamwork. Wrestling with the complexities of communication is therefore part of the challenge of developing an effective team. The balance of a team involves having people whose experience, skills, perspectives, interests and contributions complement one another, rather than duplicate or counteract each other. For example, it is no good having a team full of creative people who have lots of new ideas, but do not have the people who have the stamina and stickability to see those ideas through to completion. Similarly, a team that is full of people who are steady, strong workers but have little spark or creativity, will also be impoverished by comparison with a balanced team. If it is not to become stale and sterile, a team needs people who are prepared to risk conflict by challenging existing norms and assumptions, but, by the same token, a team also needs its peacemakers. Differences between team members can, in themselves, lead to conflict but the diversity of the team and the balance that this can achieve, will generally more than make up for any such conflicts. Leadership refers to the ability to create and sustain a positive working culture to motivate or even inspire staff to play their part in creating a work environment in which there are high standards of practice, a high level of commitment and a positive approach. A key part of leadership is ‘vision’. This refers to the ability to keep a clear focus on what the team is trying to achieve, what its objectives are in terms of its overall strategy and aims. It is very easy for a team of people who are under pressure from various directions to lose their focus on what the team is all about and what purpose it is intended to fulfil. A good leader is somebody who not only keeps a clear focus him- or herself on the team’s purpose and direction, but also ensures that that vision is shared by the team members and that they are not allowed to drift too far away from it. A good leader is somebody who promotes high morale by playing a key role in creating an atmosphere in which staff feel valued and supported. This helps to prevent such problems as gossip, rumour-mongering and backbiting, which can be so detrimental to a team’s functioning. Effective teamwork therefore depends on a good leader, the right balance of the right people and the channels of communication remaining open between them. If these three core ingredients can be brought together, then there is every chance of a very effective team developing.

Dr Neil Thompson                        

Neil’s website and blog are at

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