Taking Teamwork Seriously

Allan Mackintosh

Taking Teamwork Seriously

The purpose of this short article is twofold. Firstly, it is to get you thinking about whether your company is truly serious about developing your team leaders to be fully competent and confident in enabling their teams to deliver high levels of performance, and secondly, to briefly highlight a process that can used as a practical framework to enable team managers and leaders to lead and guide their teams to high performance.

There is a lot of discussion around present events and the fact that businesses will have to change the way they work in the future. There is also a lot of debate about moving to more remote and virtual team working and with many workforces ‘off the road’ or ‘out of the office’ just now this move to remote team working is already happening. In fact, this change has been happening for a while now and this move to more remote team working is only being accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. So where does this place the future of work- related teams?

It is generally accepted that teams are vital to the productivity of business and to gain competitive advantage whether they be physical ‘workplace’ teams, ‘distance separated’ sales and project teams or global ‘virtual’ project teams. Despite the present pandemic the vital importance of high-performance teams will not diminish – in fact with the potential for companies to downsize as a result of COVID-19 then the importance of ensuring high performance teams probably increases.

So why is there so little done to continually develop the skills of team leadership in team managers and leaders? Now, I expect some of you reading this to highlight that most management leadership courses provide information and instruction on how to lead teams effectively and, yes, I’d agree that there are masses of courses, books, blogs, articles and videos out there that highlight what is needed for organisations, managers and team leaders to learn more about high performance teams and how to lead them effectively.  My questions are around just how much is really done to ensure that learning is effectively put into practice and sustained?

How many organisations have ‘Teamwork’ as a key value but in effect do little, if anything, to develop team managers and project leaders in how to create and lead high performance teams?

How many organisations have team development capability detailed in their company capability or training plan?

How many team managers and team leaders really know the basics of teams in terms of the developmental models needing to be applied to guide the team from creation to high performance?

My experience is unfortunately that a good number of companies I have knowledge of, do not take teamwork as seriously as they should. They have ‘teamwork’ as one of their core company values, have it emblazoned on office posters and employee materials but then pass on responsibility for developing the skills of teamwork to the managers and team leaders under the guise of ‘self-development’ citing that the company’s view is that the responsibility for learning sits with the employee.  I am all for ‘self-learning’ and being ‘responsible’ but there has to be some situations where the company actually takes the lead and provides resources and learning events to enable their team managers and project leaders to develop the skills and knowledge they need to in order to produce a high performance team.  Learning about teamwork and developing the skills necessary to create and lead high performance teams, whether they are physical, virtual, functional, cross functional, project or simply one-off task teams, is an absolute essential. A team ‘bonding’ session in the pub will no doubt be a ‘good laugh’ but will produce more ‘sore heads’ than an ability to guide the team through the recognised team development stages. Conference team-building events such as synchronised drumming, performing the ‘haka’ or building paper & Lego bridges is simply ‘corporate entertainment’ and will not deliver the necessary knowledge or skills for team managers to create and sustain high performing teams. Experiential team building does work provided the tasks are appropriate, the facilitation and coaching is first class, can be related to the actual workplace and produces an action plan but for all this to really work the relevant team ‘theories’ have to be learned and applied.

However, it is not all negative as there are enlightened companies out there who do treat teams and team development seriously and as such ensure their managers and team leaders have the necessary skills and knowledge about teams and team development. These companies realise that they must go beyond the traditional leadership courses and they ensure that team development is a core part of their training and development plan. They may even have dedicated team coaches to support this development or in the event of not having the resources internally they may engage external team coaching expertise as they realise they need to have their teams performing at the top of their game. This is a must if they are to compete at the highest level against their competitors in increasingly tough marketplaces.

What do companies have to do to ensure they have high performing teams?

1.Take all teams seriously. Creating and leading high performing teams is a highly specialised skill that goes beyond just reading from a book or watching a video.

2.Ensure that ‘Teamwork Capability’ is an essential component of the Company Training Plan.

3.Ensure that if there is a competency framework for managers and team leaders then teamworking is a key competency along with the desired behaviours as descriptors.

4.If the company has the resources, then look at having dedicated internal capability that can support development of team leadership and teamwork. Failing that look for external support to assist you in developing your teams.

5.Make sure the basic team development theory is covered utilising all the key developmental models that have been proven to work both in sports and in business.

There are numerous resources available through the internet and through specialised team development companies. I have created a support framework entitled P.A.R.T.N.E.R.S that gives team leaders and managers a process to check that they are covering the key components of any high performing team and I’ll be covering the key aspects of the P.A.R.T.N.E.R.S process in subsequent articles.   The process is practical, easy to use and covers the key essential areas of team development including, Purpose, Aims and goals, Roles & responsibilities, Training, Team & Individual Needs, Expectations including decision making , conflict resolution & contracting, Reward & recognition, reviews, Stakeholder management and support.  All these areas need to be covered (preferably as a team) if you are going to achieve high performance with your team. And this process is free for you to use as you see fit.

In the meantime, if anyone would like a detailed overview of the P.A.R.T.N.E.R.S process then please feel free to drop me an email at

(c) 2021 Allan Mackintosh