Not Value Teamwork? Who Doesn’t Value Teamwork?

Kevin P. Dincher

In my last post (Team Building? Oh, No! Wait a Minute!) I wrote about some common reasons that team building efforts fail—an unskilled facilitator, poor planning, bad or inappropriate exercises and unclear goals—and said that one of the most common reasons that team building efforts fail is that you shouldn’t be doing team building in the first place.  There are some problems that cannot be solved by team building, and trying to solve them with some team building workshop or exercise is counterproductive.  We should not be using team building to deal with individual performance issues, when the problem is a lack of resources or to compensate for team members not having the skills—and we should not be planning a team building effort when the team has already had a bad experience of team building.

Some readers responded with a few other situations when they thought team building was not an appropriate intervention.  One in particular caught my attention:  when the organization does not actually value teamwork.

Not value teamwork?  Who doesn’t value teamwork?  Every organization values teamwork, right?  Well, maybe.

Increasingly the workplace is being organized around projects that are managed by teams.  But simply launching teams, holding an annual offsite retreat or organizing an occasional staff picnic or bocce tournament does not mean that your organization actually values teamwork.  How can you tell if an organization really values teamwork?

  1. Top leaders “talk the talk”.  Executive leaders clearly communicate their expectation that teamwork and collaboration are the norm.  (By the way, you can tell a lot about what leaders and managers really think nu checking out what books they have in their on their bookshelves.)
  2. Executives “walk the walk.”  They model teamwork in their own interactions with one another and with the rest of the organization.  And they maintain teamwork even when things are not going well rather than fall back into non-collaborative behavior.
  3. Employees talk naturally about teamwork and collaboration.  They understand and can identify the value of a teamwork culture, and collaboration is part of their vocabulary.  In a teamwork environment, people understand and believe that thinking, planning, decisions and actions are better when done cooperatively.  Is there a formal statement of company values?  Is teamwork is one of the top five values?
  4. Teamwork is recognized and rewarded.  Team successes are celebrated publicly—but the performance management system also acknowledges individual contributions to teamworkCompensation, bonuses, and rewards are tied as much to collaborative practices as to individual contribution and achievement.

So, does your organization actually value teamwork?


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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