Teamwork in the Workplace Begins with the Individual

There is no I in teamwork ... Rubbish! Teamwork in the workplace begins, ends and thrives because of the individual. In this series of articles discover how to make your team stronger

This page serves two purposes.


1. Share the insider secret all high-performance leaders know → teamwork begins with the individual.


2. Provide you with a series of articles that help drive high-performance teamwork in the workplace.

If you have already visited this page and want to skip straight to the list of articles, use this link

Have you ever heard that dopey saying there is no "I" in team! What a load of nonsense! Teamwork in the workplace is highly reliant on individuals! Individuals performing to their best and, sometimes, that performance will be for their own self-interest!


We all go to work to have some of our personal needs met, and the workplace that tries to ignore or negate the individual's needs is setting itself up for a fool's ride. The leader's role is to help each individual align his/her needs and interests, with the goals and pursuits of the team.


A team filled with individuals who are committed to and passionate about the team's goals, because they coincide with their own needs, is far more powerful, than a team filled with individuals who have over-ridden their own needs, for the good of the team, and are co-operating in a lackluster manner.

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High-Performance Teams Place High Value on Attitude

Mindset, attitude, and motivation you can't train into someone. Yes, you can create the environment that inspires people to want to be at (and give of) their best, but some individuals really aren't right for your workplace, and they can quickly destroy the morale of the team.


Make no mistake. The most powerful team member ... who will quickly undermine teamwork in the workplace .. is that individual who under-performs and cares little about the success of the team. High-performance teams know this, and make sure that these team members (who aren't a right fit for the environment and the work on offer) are quickly moved out of the team.


If you want more tips on how to create the right environment to inspire people to be at their best, access "How To Motivate Employees" (this product is currently going under a rewrite and will be available soon).

Make no mistake. The most powerful team member is that individual who under-performs and cares little about the success of the team. Coach up or Coach out this person fast.

High-Performance Teams Place High Value on Individuals Using Their Strengths

Understanding an individual's strengths means that you can place them in roles that will enable them to use their strengths regularly. When people can do this, their discretionary effort goes up, and they are far more productive. Read more about strengths and individual and team success.


Jobs and task assignment should be crafted around each individual's strengths rather than Job Descriptions.


Allowing your people to use their strengths on a regular basis, keeps them engaged and wanting to stay a part of the organization. 


Stop being so caught up in having people do the jobs assigned by their job description. Sure, let job descriptions be a guide, but don't let them dictate how you get work done in your team.


Make a list of all the tasks that need to happen for the team to succeed, then work with your team to make sure that the individual, whose strengths coincide with the task, is assigned to that task.


High-Performance Teams Don't Waste Time Trying to Fix an Individual's Weaknesses

It is outmoded to think that an individual should be good at everything. Research by Gallup is pretty clear. Spending inordinate amounts of time and energy on making someone exceptional at all that is described in their job description is a waste of organizational time and resources. 


You do need to identify the individual's weaknesses. Then put strategies in place so that these weaknesses don't become catastrophic to them or the business. For example, your technical guru may speak in a language that no-one else gets.


Well, don't try to completely stop him or her doing that. Instead, you might want to get your 'technical guru' a little more customer-focused when he or she needs to meet a client. But, don't expect him or her to close the sale and build the relationship with the customer. That needs to be done by someone who has the skills, talents, and capability to 'schmooze'. 


For those parts of their job that they are weak at, use others in the team, whose strengths are the individual's weaknesses, to support them. That just makes good business sense.

High-Performance Teams Keep Score

You can anticipate high levels of teamwork in the workplace when goals are clearly defined, and performance is recorded and shared regularly. Any individual team member, should be able to tell a visitor to their facility, the top 5 goals for the team and be able to quote in a measurable manner how their team is tracking toward that goal, for that particular hour/day/week/month (whichever is the appropriate measure) AND ...


The individual should be able to tell the visitor what their individual 3-5 goals are (which support the team in achieving its goals) and how they as an individual are tracking toward that goal.

Teamwork in the Workplace Happens at a Higher Level when Each Team Member is Trained to Provide Feedback

Differing personalities, tension for resources, and conflict are all part and parcel of organizational life. If you want a high-performance team, it is imperative, that you provide each person in the team, with the skills to hold challenging and difficult conversations, to negotiate differences, and to provide performance improvement feedback.


Don't do this, and the chances of you having a team, that performs to its optimum, is severely diminished.


When people don't have the skills to handle high stakes conversations, tactfully and successfully, you can guarantee that the raising of issues/problems/poor performance is avoided. But you will see the consequence of it:

  • back-stabbing 
  • gossiping running rampant
  • high turnover
  • stressed leaders
  •  overall poor team performance

Teach team members skills such as those available in the training "Successful Feedback"

Improving Teamwork In The Workplace Checklist

  • Conflict is going to happen - in fact healthy conflict is needed - so train each team member in how to hold high stakes conversations.
  • Make sure every team member knows the goals, knows how the team is tracking against the goal, how their individual performance impacts on the team goals
  • Create the systems that enable each individual to work to his or her strengths regularly. Put in place systems/support to minimize the impact of his or her weaknesses. 
  • Entrench in the culture that poor performance is not tolerated and is rapidly addressed 
  • Provide the systems and support, so that team members can hold each other accountable for individual performance (and provide disciplinary action when needed)
  • Ensure that the team members are part of the hiring team and selection process
  • Attitude and mindset are more important than skill-set ... so hire accordingly
  • As teams grow and develop, enable them more control over decision-making, and how the work gets done.
  • Have a robust training and development program that goes beyond technical skills. Team members must learn 'soft-skills', For example, providing performance feedback, problem solving, holding effective meetings and develop their business acumen, so they are thinking and acting like business partners.
  • Improving Overall Team Performance

  • Improving Individual Team Member Performance

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More productive, bigger goals achieved. Overcoming obstacles, people achieving against the odds - if you want these things for your team, then time to start developing resilience in your people.


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Are you working within a command and control type of organization where there is a lot of 'being told what to do'? Are you looking for a way to break this old way of leading, and create a workplace that is more empowered and engaged?


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You can take this quiz either before you've read the Stages of Team Development and Team Pillars articles, to test your knowledge. Or, take it after to assess how well you have understood the information.


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We seem to self-manage at home, yet when it comes to teams in the workplace, it can be challenging to know how to develop them to become more self-reliant and self-managing. Following on from the Stages of Team Development article, the tools here will open up a whole new world of team development


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Want to clarify who has responsibility for approving and undertaking various activities in your team? Use the Responsibility Chart, it is a wonderful tool for clarifying responsibilities and can be a great way to move your team more toward high-performance.


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Getting every team and team member focused upon unifying goals can be a challenge. Use this process to align all teams and team members, so they are pulling together toward success.


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Have you got a problem or challenge, and not sure how to tackle it? Use The Opportunity Discovery Process to help your team get focused and agreed upon where to put their energy and attention.


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Take this quiz to see how much conflict there is in your team.

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Here's how to identify learned helplessness in the workplace, along with a 3-Step process to overcome it.

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In this interview, performance measurement expert Stacey Barr, shares her top 5 tips for creating measures that drive results.

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