25th January 2024 Chris Sheepshanks

The Importance Of Developing Teamship

Happy and productive employees in a business that uses teamship to develop team skills and help them collaborate on projects.

What Is Teamship?

Teamship can be defined as the qualities, conditions, and elements that need to be in place for a team to excel, thrive and to achieve strong and sustainable results through effective collaboration and collective endeavour. While much focus is often placed on supporting individual teams, Teamship can be also applied to an organisational system, by creating high-quality alignment, learning and collaboration between teams across organisational boundaries, and is often central to generating a learning organisation, in action, and not just in name. 

The Importance Of Teams 

While over the last 40 years, the emphasis of development has often been placed on the individual, the salient fact remains that most work is undertaken in a group or team context. Teams have been around for millennia and are based on the proven and well understood concept that bringing a number of people together to achieve a given task or result, pooling resources and workload, knowledge and insight, creates the ability to achieve something greater and more sustainable than just acting alone.  

However, what is less understood or given time and attention in team development is the conditions which need to be in place and the qualities that need to be developed to enable that group of often talented and committed individuals to start and to continue to work together as a team.  

Invariably, teams are expected to somehow do this automatically or to just muddle through, rather than recognising that the quality of teamship within a team will predetermine the quality of its output and euphemistically, whether the total will be more – or less than the sum of the parts.

Why Develop Teamship?

For teamship to be more than yet another slogan or catchphrase, some thought needs to be given as to Why you, or any leader, team or organisation would benefit from investing time, energy, and resources in developing teamship within a team or across an organisational system. 

This may require some thought and reflection on whether such an investment is worthwhile given the current quality of the individuals working in your team or organisation.  You might pause and go and look, figuratively smelling the air and wondering what it might be like to work in this team or in this organisation, and whether the environment that your own and other leaders are creating, is an environment where individuals and teams want to and are able to give their best.  

Equally, you might use some simple criteria to consider this, such as the amount of time you (and others) invest in dealing with on-going and recurring people management issues and harmful internal conflicts.  What is the impact of high or low – decision making, motivation, engagement, energy, and commitment within your team? How clear is everyone of what you are trying to achieve and how aligned are they on how you are going to do it, together?  How safe do people feel to speak up without censure or recrimination?  How well are you and other team members leading or adapting to change and recurring challenges? How often is the team taking time to learn from its success and its mistakes, so that it can apply that learning to adapt and thrive?

In developing any sort of business case for developing teamship, you may also need to consider how much weight, credence, and importance you put into the evidence of the impact of good and poor teamship and team working. This might include a recent Harvard Business Review, which highlighted that poor team performance costs US businesses on average, an estimated $15.5 million per year, or the recent study by McKinsey which indicated that great teams generate 30% higher profitability than their counterparts.  The research by Gallup that indicates that disengaged employees cost U.S. companies $550 billion every year, or the research undertaken by Google that showed that the level of psychological safety in teams (defined as ‘a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking’, Edmondson 2019) has a direct correlation to a team’s effectiveness and profitability. 

What Does Developing Teamship Involve? 

Teamship starts with enrolling others in a compelling purpose, which helps to unify and clarify the team’s role and task, while ensuring alignment with wider stakeholder needs.  

It includes establishing clarity across the team of the results you wish to achieve, not just in terms of outputs and metrics, but also of the type of team you need to be, and the ability of the team members to find meaning and enjoyment in working together, which inevitably leads to a higher level of contribution.  

In involves looking at Actions, what the team needs to do, independently and together to achieve its desired results; how decisions are made, what is or is not a priority, how to foster both creativity and mutual accountability and alignment on values and behaviours, including what team members recognise they need to role-model to others. 

Often crucially, it requires an understanding of how to nurture a healthy and effective relational dynamic, which builds sufficient trust and a safe environment where members can voice ideas and concerns, that addresses real time mind-sets, attitudes, and behaviours, and clarifies mutual expectations and assumptions.

Finally, it includes leadership, and creating an understanding within the team of what that oft cited word, leadership, means and looks like in their context, by the leader and each team member, and what will enable the team to continuously learn, evolve and adapt in response to current or emerging challenges.  

Ultimately however, developing Teamship is both a decision and a state of mind, and becomes important because it is seen and recognised to BE important, not only in its own right, but for the health and sustainability of the business!  How important might it be for you?  What might your team say?

Interested In Learning More?

The Centre for Teams has been supporting senior leadership and executive teams to strengthen their effectiveness, business impact and professional enjoyment for over 20 years. If any of the points raised above has caused you to want to know more about Teamship and how to develop it, get in touch with Centre For Teams today!

Image Source: Canva

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