Fundamental to success in any organisation, no matter what the size or its purpose, is teamwork. Many leaders speak up a storm about teamwork, but often this is little more than hot air. There is never enough focus on really making this a core of the success of the organisation.

Let us unpack what teamwork really means.

The starting point is for the leadership to focus on the team’s needs. Too often the leaders focus on what they want out of the team and to a great extent this attitude disempowers the teams and renders it not much more than a group of slaves to the master’s instruction.

In the world in which we live this could prove to be disastrous. The world moves too fast, it is heavily technology-based and information moves at warp-speed.  In order to be able to survive, thrive and grow in this environment an organisation needs everyone to be thinking, everyone to be alert to the possibilities and everyone focussed on being the very best that they can be, at whatever it is they are good at. There is a very slim margin for error. A thinking and learning organisation can only exist if all the people in it are all thinking and learning both individually and collectively. There is no other way.

Another significant benefit is that the more people there are that are really thinking about the organisation and its interaction with world, the easier it becomes for the leadership to focus on what they should be focussed, namely taking the organisation forward with far-reaching plans and strategies and playing an energetically inspiring role at all levels!

One of the most basic tenets of great teamwork is that there are NO SILOS! By definition, if there are, then it is not a team, but groups of individuals that work together. The best way to prevent silos from being an obstacle is to prevent them from developing in the first place. If they do exist act speedily to dismantle them. This might mean transferring individuals, changing the roles, job-swopping; even dismissing the most disruptive of the individuals involved.  Oftentimes silos develop as a mechanism to protect turf or information. These are power plays and have no place in a modern, smoothly functioning organisation whether family, church, corporation or government.  A key to the no silos approach is to ensure that everyone understands and buys into the overarching strategy of the business and what the role of each team and individual must be in order to achieve that strategic goals. And, of course, targeted rewards must underpin this approach.

The very best teams are imbued with a spirit of commitment to, and support of, each other. In this context big egos are an obstacle to excellent teamwork. Team members should be chosen as far as possible for their commitment to others and to the team, ahead of their commit to their own goals and objectives.

In other words, we should strive to create a culture of contribution, rather than culture of selfish self-aggrandisement. Being part of a team means a subjugation of the self for the benefit of the team. This means applying all the talent, knowledge and energy one has into the well-being of the team. Obviously, as the team wins, so do all the individuals in it. One of the deepest forms of personal satisfaction is being part of a winning team and knowing that by throwing oneself wholeheartedly into the team effort one has contributed to that success. A satisfaction that can be gained and felt in no other way!

This is the highest form of ubuntu! Being a true team member is the surest way getting to know oneself at the deepest level.


Tony Frost