Teamwork makes the Dreamwork

 In Team Productivity, Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork

Teamwork makes the dreamwork is a phrase you’ve probably heard, but sometimes it’s elusive. If you’ve ever worked in a team that really clicks, you’ll know how true it is. A high functioning team can achieve incredible results – not just incrementally better, but perhaps 10x those of an average team. But more than that, a great team is a pleasure to work with. In fact, work becomes motivating, fun and incredibly rewarding when you’re surrounded by a dream-team. Who wouldn’t want to work in a team like that?!


The Origins of Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork

This well-known phrase is first attributed to John Maxwell, an American Clergyman. His original quote was;

Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.

John Maxwell

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork: how to make it happen

It’s all very well to have the desire for a high-functioning team, but how do you actually create a dream-team? Not everyone has the natural leadership and charisma of some of the well-known leaders of our time, but it’s still very possible to create an amazing team.

Hiring perfect team members is obviously an ideal way to start, but often we have an existing team that we want to improve. Don’t worry – no team is a lost cause and there’s plenty that can be done!

Components of a great team

There are a few elements required for a high-performing team. Regardless of the state of your existing team, all of these things can easily be improved. Figure out which ones need the most work and focus on those first. Here’s what it takes to cultivate a dream-team….

1) Compelling Team Purpose

Having a clear team vision is probably the most important thing for any team. This might be the same as the business vision statement, but if it’s a bigger organization, you need a specific team vision as well. The idea here is not to get too complicated, but to bring everyone together with a common purpose – something that’s motivating and somehow aligns with individuals’ goals. Use simple language that inspires the team to pull together for something bigger than themselves! An example of this is Offeo, a drag and drop video creation platform. They have set a vision of building the world’s simplest animated video maker platform.

For teamwork online, creating and consistently communicating a team purpose is especially important. Often team members are removed from the outcome of their work, so they need reminding of the goal and the impact of their work.

2) Clear Responsibilities

With an overarching vision in place, responsibilities need to be broken down so that each team member knows exactly how their role feeds into the vision. Ambiguity creates stress, so don’t leave people guessing. Spell out what each person is responsible for and how their role contributes to the team’s performance. Knowing how their contribution feeds into the team outputs can be very motivating.

3) Positive Team Culture

The team culture and team norms that develop over time largely determine the ways that team members interact with each other. A supportive team culture means that team members encourage each other (without lowering the standards expected of each other). They are equally concerned about the team outcomes and less driven by individual motivations.

How do you create a positive team culture? If your team is quite homogenous, a strong team culture may come naturally, but if not, you might have to work a bit harder.

A positive team culture really comes down to people liking and respecting each other – which can be cultivated by giving people opportunities to understand each other. Which is why HR departments are so fond of activities that create situations for team members to get to know each other, and creating situations to rely on each other. (Yes, they’re actually a good idea!)

Here are some ways to improve the culture of remote teams.

4) Solid Team Processes

For a group of individuals to become a ‘dream team’, they also need a defined way of working together. This might include a regular (perhaps weekly) team meeting, a way of sharing what everyone is working on (use the Actioned App for this!), and a way of communicating (eg chat programs). Individual one-on-one meetings are also an important part of a solid team process.

There should also be a process for holding the team meeting. This could involve; new announcements, a ‘fun-fact’ question, reviewing any tasks outstanding from the previous week, reviewing the plan for the coming week, sharing individual and team ‘wins’, and discussing any issues.

A Team Agreement document is also a good idea. This should be a live document that’s updated as new situations arise with the collaboration of the team. It should define things like; the expectations of team members (hours, availability, etc), communication style and guidelines, tools and guidelines on when to use which one, and working style expectations. When issues arise, they can be discussed in light of the team agreement document and the team can agree to make amendments as necessary.

5) Reinforcing Feedback Systems

Knowing what’s working and what needs improving creates the feedback loop that both individuals and teams need. Without feedback, it’s hard to maintain motivation and a willingness to improve. Feedback should take many different forms – announcements, positive recognition in front of peers, individual performance assessments, and regular charting of the team’s progress (perhaps on a dashboard or KPI report). Celebrating successes is also a huge part of creating a high performing team. Make your team’s victories memorable and worth striving for!

6) External Support

Even the best teams can’t succeed without the necessary support around them. Depending on the situation, this might be senior management support, adequate funding, or support from a board.

A team that works well internally, but is externally blocked from achieving great things, ends up feeling frustrated and disenfranchised. Soon enough, morale drops and team members leave or resign themselves to simply going through the motions.

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork

How to get your team humming

Yes, teamwork makes the dreamwork, but there’s more to it than just throwing together a group of people and hoping for the best. A dream team needs structures around it and management to get it performing at high levels. A strong leader can put in place changes to increase team performance, but equally, any team member can also implement many of these things.

Once you have a team with high levels of trust among members, high performance, strong and respectful relationships between members, you’ll truly understand how teamwork makes the dream-work!


If you’re looking for a team productivity tool, check out the Actioned App – register for early access now.

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