Fostering teamwork

Known for his Dale Carnegie training expertise, Terry Siebert is writing to inspire leaders to reach their greatest potential. Leadership, today more than ever, may mean the difference between closing the doors or opening new markets. Every month, he'll post help with mindset, business tools and more. Read Full Bio

In its shortest form, the definition of teamwork is a group of people from varying backgrounds working toward a common goal.

With that definition as a starting point, there are many positive qualities that effective teams can bring to each individual, their departments, and a company. At the same time, there are many barriers to making all these positive things happen. They include a lack of time, lack of resources, lack of communication, lack of common vision, being too reactive, EGOS, inability to meet face to face, and the history one might have with another team member. The goal is to get beyond the barriers and BE AN EFFECTIVE TEAM MEMBER.

Companies often see amazing results when work teams are cohesive and in harmony. Productivity often increases because employees feel they are a part of the company. Employee turnover often decreases because employees feel they can make a difference. And costs often fall because employees are working to solve problems management might never see.

For many of you who have taken a personality type test, you probably recall that different personality types on a team need to be approached differently. Whether you are a director, persuader, stabilizer, or analyst, it is critical to trust and respect the nuances and strengths that others bring to the team.

Following are a few tips on making teams positive, driving forces in the workplace.


Respect is the understanding between team members that the team as a whole has each individual’s best interests in mind. Respect, as well as trust, is earned. Here are some ways to do it:

  • When you’re in a bind, admit it and ask for support from other team members.
  • Avoid “I win/you lose” arguments.
  • Always be there when needed.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes. It will show you are human and will earn you further respect.
  • Let other members on the team know how much you enjoy working with them.


Effective teams have the ability to clearly communicate decisions and move forward with commitment from the whole team. Does this mean that every decision is reached by team consensus? Absolutely not. There will be many instances where not everyone is in total agreement. Solid team members accept the fact that their opinions might not always be right for the sake of the whole. If a team spends its time trying to reach consensus on every decision, opportunities will surely be missed. Communication and dedication toward a common goal can best be reached by:

  • Team alignment toward agreed-upon goals.
  • The necessary attitude and skill to act fast if opportunity presents itself.
  • Realization that sometimes it is necessary to change direction on a project based on current reality.
  • Always asking the “tough questions,” even if you know it might create conflict.
  • Replacing guardedness with candor.


With agreed-upon goals, everyone is responsible for his or her part of the action. It is the responsibility of each team member to hold others accountable to hit the goals. This is why it is so important that all team members be on the same page and the goals be documented for all to see. With upfront agreement on who is responsible for what, it is much easier to have tougher conversations later if someone is not holding up his end of the project. Hold each other accountable:

  • If there is a problem, get it out there for all to see. Take advantage of the input from your fellow team members.
  • Everyone should feel the need to get the job done. Sharing the responsibility is an advantage of being on a team.
  • Don’t be afraid to have that very candid conversation with a team member who is not doing his or her agreed-upon share.
  • Remember that a team is only as effective as the sum of its parts.


Most great teams are continually successful because they always have their sights set on a common purpose. In addition to having agreed-upon team goals, each team member also should have a clear understanding of what his or her counterparts’ goals are as well. Whether they are team or individual goals, they should also meet the SMART criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Results Oriented
  • Time Sensitive

In summary, each team member brings his or her distinct personality, strengths, and weaknesses to the team. With a variety of backgrounds, a common goal, and a clear understanding of everyone’s responsibilities, the effective team moves forward and meets or exceeds expectations in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.

Now go out and meet those goals!

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