A team, by definition, consists of people who work together. I have discovered a range of definitions for “work together” in organizations. At times it means people are connected to the same manager, others might say it means we tolerate one another, and still others might develop friendships enjoyed at work. These definitions do not clearly delineate how people work together, nor do they ensure realization of the true benefits of teamwork.
When many work groups do actually attempt to work together to make a decision, address a problem, or define a goal it becomes competitive. Competition influences the group members’ participation in those processes.
- One person may become more assertive, or even aggressive, to ensure he or she influences the outcome based on his or her perspective.
- Expertise can be positioned as an advantage to ensure one is heard and respected so his or her input is utilized.
- A group member can withhold his or her ideas, passively avoiding the interchange to avoid an escalation of tension while hoping someone else decides the results.
- The leader can depend compromise, knowing everyone received something important to him or her while accepting everyone also had to give up on part of his or her ideas.
When collaboration characterizes “work together” there are different influences resulting in different group member experiences.
- Everyone knows his or her contribution is valued and will be considered as he or she values and considers others’ contributions.
- It is a safe environment for everyone to contribute ideas and provide feedback to one another.
- Experts are open to questions, learning, and options as they contribute to a shared solution.
- The leader ensures that the group focuses on discovering the best outcome or solution.
At some level, collaboration and teamwork are synonymous. Competition in a work group counteracts most of the benefits that we gain when we truly work together. For this reason, collaboration is better than competition in teamwork.
There are three reasons that collaboration beats competition in a team.
Competition focuses on winning. Those who are competitive strive to see their input chosen as the answer. The non-competitive withhold the contribution that may make the difference, but is not known to the group.
Collaboration focuses on the best solution or outcome. The focus is on every person in the team contributing all that is available to achieve that common result. The competition is against the problem, best decision, or goal and not one another.
The interactions in a competitive environment usually do not promote healthy relationships. Communication can be ineffective with more talking than listening and ignoring those who do not compete.
Collaboration, which should be energized in lively debate, requires listening to understand and making sure one is understood. Interactions are respectful and it is safe to contribute as well as question the ideas of others.
Competition results in a one sided outcome, or a compromise of what everyone can live with. It leaves group members with questionable commitment to the outcome that they may or may not agree with fully.
Collaboration results in the outcome everyone agrees is best, knowing each one has contributed something to discovering it. There is ownership in the decision and clarity that engages everyone in contributing.
Teams will benefit from collaboration. Without leaders who possess both the skill and capacity to develop collaborative teamwork, they will not experience it. Our next webinar will provide foundational leadership skills for leaders who desire to develop a collaborative team. More information is available here.