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Teamwork Defined

... by strengths!

Teamwork Defined

... by strengths!

Teamwork defined by a strengths based approach might sound unusual but it can provide you with a very useful perspective on how to define teamwork.

In our article Teamwork Theories we introduced our model to help you develop teams. This model encourages team development using individual strengths, combined with effective teamwork, in the pursuit of meaningful goals. Here we discuss the ‘strengths’ element of the model.

The STAR team model suggests that effective teamwork in the workplace happens when four aspects are considered – Strengths, Teamwork, Alignment and Results:

  • Individuals flourish as they use and develop their Strengths.

    Teamwork principles using the STAR Teams Model

    Star Team Model

  • People come together, building relationships that result in effective Teamwork.
  • The team leader Aligns the team through effective communication of purpose, so that individual strengths combine with teamwork to deliver the teams results.
  • Together everyone achieves more as performance flows and Results, that are meaningful and rewarding to the team, are achieved.

A different emphasis and focus for each of the STAR model elements is needed at different stages of the team’s development.

At this stage of beginning to develop a team you will have already used team building techniques to form the team such as:

  • Establishing the purpose of the team and agreeing the results the team needs to produce.
  • Identifying the tasks needed to be fulfilled.
  • Allocating roles and responsibilities based on strengths.
Teamwork defined by strengths

What are we to make of teams? In the 90’s they came to be promoted as a panacea for all situations. But all too often they were used to cover up poor management, struggling organisations or rationalisation programmes.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that the promulgation of a team focus can receive a mixed reception from people in organisations.

Nonetheless, there can be no doubting the importance of teamworking, and the fact that it is here to stay! In their influential book “The Wisdom of Teams”, John Katzenbach and Douglas Smith declared:

Teams will be the primary building blocks of company performance in the organisation of the future.

Although they also make the point that teams aren’t the answer to everything, Katzenbach and Smith nonetheless believe that teams are an increasingly important factor in high performance organisations.

Yet all too often, the power of effective team working is not being harnessed at work. And what we call might call a team is really no more than a work-group, or worse – just a collection of individuals.

There has also been a tendency to build teams by asking individuals to develop a mix of skills, so that members can cover for each other. Whereas this approach to teamwork can be useful, it might lead to the loss of individuality in the team. And crucially, to the loss or neglect of individual strengths.

Teamwork defined by strengthsTeam leaders should never forget that one of the key benefits of teamwork is the individual strengths of its members. It can be the blend of different strengths which makes a team really effective. Particularly when this creates a synergy which can drive high performance and successful attainment of team goals.

In team building literature or team development sessions, we often hear the mantra: “there is no I in TEAM”. Whilst that is literally true, we might also point out that there is an “M” and an “E”, which happens to spell “ME”! Teamwork defined by strengths means capitalising on the power of “ME” to help deliver exceptional performance for “us”.

What are strengths?

Strengths are things people are good at, often seeming to come naturally to them. Perhaps for this reason, people can find it easier to develop strengths than to improve on weaknesses or to learn completely new skills.

It is far easier and more rewarding to get better at something you are already good at, than to try and improve something that is a weakness. But that’s not to say weaknesses should be ignored. Especially where they may impact on your strengths, or if they are limiting your potential in other areas.

However, it’s unlikely that you are going to get really good at something you find difficult to do. This is when the balance of teamwork really comes into play. It may be a better use of development time and resources to find others in the team who have strengths to compensate for the weaknesses in another. For more on strengths and how to identify them, see our articles: work motivation and work life effectiveness.

What do we mean by teamwork defined by strengths?

People aren’t good at doing everything. We get the best performance when people invest in getting better at what they are already good at – what we already know, but don’t put in to practice.

In reality, far too many performance management and development/appraisals focus on weaknesses and gaps. All too often, performance managers focus on these perceived “development needs”, rather than on activities which might develop existing or potential strengths. As we’ve already said, it’s only worth focusing on weaknesses when they stop or limit effectiveness in the use of strengths. Otherwise, it’s far more useful to build on strengths and use other team members to balance out the weaknesses.

How can we promote strengths in team members? By:

  • Selecting team members with complementary strengths, with reference to team objectives, rationale and culture.
  • Enabling and supporting team members to use their strengths, in ways that combine well with others in the team.
  • Focusing development time and resource on people’s strengths, rather than trying to address weaknesses which can be balanced by others in the team.
  • Aligning and blending strengths to achieve results for the team.
  • Acknowledging and recognizing achievements where individuals are using their strengths for team benefit.

Teamwork defined by strengths is the first stage in developing teams that perform. It’s also a key element in encouraging well-being in the workplace. This begins to happen when an individual’s strengths are applied to tasks which they find both worthwhile and engaging. People are happier when their time is spent using their strengths productively, something we explore further in our article: what causes happiness.

If you do have the time to read more on the idea of teamwork defined by strengths, why not go to our teamwork articles. A good place to start might be to remind yourself of the benefits of teamwork, or by asking: why is teamwork important?

Building better teams

Teams e-guidesIf you want to build a better team, you’ll find more information and a wealth of practical resources, in our colossal Team Building Bundle.

Containing 240 pages and 50 tools, these are the 8 key guides we recommend to help you do more than define teamwork, build it!

Why is Teamwork Important
Build a Better Team
The Problems with Teams
Team Health Check
Team Building Exercises
Leading with Style and Focus
What’s the Problem?
Making Better Decisions

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