The Value of Teamwork


[tweetmeme source=”jodyfisher”only_single=false

I love victory laps. Flooring the gas past the checkered flag. Scoring the touchdown and spiking the ball. The slow trot around the bases, index finger held high, after smashing the grand slam to the upper deck. Yeah, baby. It’s all me.

It’s true there’s nothing more satisfying (in the PR workplace) than locking up that great hit, pulling off the killer event or delivering on that monster social media strategy that makes it look like you wrote the code for facebook and twitter yourself.

But a wise man once said “Ya can’t do it all by yerself; yer gonna need help.”

Which brings us to Teamwork.

There are pros and cons to working in a team. Effective teamwork can turn a good project into an award-winning one. Poor teamwork can make a sure fire winning strategy go down in flames.

So here are my humble thoughts on teamwork:

1. Appoint a Leader. As I wrote in an earlier post about organization, you can’t win without a leader. With a “Big L.” This is the person who lays out the goals, assigns the tasks, calls the play and keeps things moving forward. And they can’t have any jobs other than that. There’s a reason the conductor of an orchestra doesn’t also play an instrument; he can’t possibly lead 100 musicians while he’s blowing into a tuba. A leader that takes up some of the tasks themselves isn’t doing their job; they are getting too close to the work to be watching the larger picture. A leader’s job is to define, delegate and get the hell out of the way.

2. Keep everyone in the loop on everything. That doesn’t mean endless email chains where 100 people are cc’d and it takes 30 minutes to make a decision on which conference room you’re meeting in. It means that the leader needs to deliver regular, critical updates on the status of the project. Whether weekly, daily, or hourly, you need regular face-to-face team checkins so everyone stays swimming in the same direction.

3. Don’t have meetings. You heard it right. Meetings are a colossal waste of time; they’re busy work for work’s sake. The team should huddle for its usual update, the leader runs the narrative and team members chime in where and only where needed. The update runs no longer than 15 minutes. And everyone walks out with one next step and one deliverable for the next update. Not two. Not three. One. Done today. Preferably now.

4. Communicate. Not all the responsibility falls on the leader’s shoulders. Team members must make sure they communicate back up the chain when their task is done, or relay critical details if something changes that forces the plan to shift. Typically this process breaks down because the leader is unapproachable or unavailable. Open doors lead to better communication. Leaders should never shut their door. And team members should never hesitate to walk in.

5. Define progress. Again, a job for the leader, who needs to reinforce to the team when they’ve hit critical milestones, as well as let the client know you’re making headway. People are busy, and the people who have hired you won’t know you’re working hard or hitting your targets if you don’t shove it in their face. So do it regularly. Short, succinct, friendly and with a bit of style.

6. Praise and party. The clients I work hardest for are the ones who say, simply, “Thank you, we are so thrilled.” That’s all I need to keep plowing away for them (though a regular paycheck doesn’t hurt either). The “thank you people” are the ones I will pickup the phone for while I am on vacation. Similarly, the leader must remember to praise their team regularly and make it sincere. Make sure everyone knows they have value and they’ve kicked some ass. Not in an email. Face to face. Takes 10 seconds. Then gather the team around for one of those football endzone victory dances, and set your sights on your next conquest.

How do you define good teamwork?