Sophia works as a Sales Associate and is extremely good at her job. She regularly receives maximum bonuses, and is often recognized as her company’s top salesperson. Sophia’s boss recently told her that he wanted her to focus more on supporting her team – the other Sales Associates in her division. Sophia is puzzled. Why should I take my focus off my own territory to help someone else become a better sales person?

Teamwork has become the answer to whatever ails organizations – even when it isn’t the ideal solution. Teamwork is defined by Merriam-Webster online as “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.” People must see the value in subordinating their personal needs for the betterment of the team. If they don’t see what is in it for them, team members simply won’t act like a team. What situations call for teamwork? An article in HR Magazine online titled Teamwork – not necessarily the answer points to three factors that indicate when a teamwork model is best:

Work requires more than one person. Manufacturing widgets, serving dinner to 300 people and sailing a large vessel are tasks that require teamwork. There are simply too many things to be done, some of which are simultaneous, for the work to be accomplished solo. Even if the tasks are sequential, complexity requires that more than one brain be applied to the work.

Work creates a common sense of purpose. If the group is working toward a shared result, some level of teamwork would help them maximize each person’s value – and provide a higher level of quality to the customer.

There’s true interdependence. If what Sophia does impacts the success of others, they are a team. This mutual dependence doesn’t have to be 100%. Even if they’re only partially dependent on each other to complete tasks or accomplish results, some level of teamwork is required.

At face value, it may appear that Sophia has little to gain from helping her fellow Sales Associates. However, consider the impact on the company if her “teammates” falter. The organization simply could not continue to thrive based on the sales skills of a single person. In fact, there is a common purpose among the sales team – to maximize the organization’s overall sales. Sophia’s next conversation with her boss will be about how the company can adjust their compensation model to support teamwork – perhaps basing a part of future bonuses on overall sales. That would reinforce the reality that they really do have mutual dependence.

There’s an old saying about teamwork being essential because it allows you to blame someone else. (In case you missed it, that was a joke.) Sometimes teamwork isn’t necessary and can actually get in the way of the results you want. Teamwork is really only essential when everyone has at least a little skin in the game.

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