Part of the enigma of U.S. history is the apparently opposing dynamic forces of American “Rugged Individualism” vs. teamwork.
The authors of “Rugged Individualism: Dead or Alive?” wrote, “Reaching back to the founding, rugged individualism has defined American character and uniqueness. It has been described as the “master assumption” of American political and economic thought. The combination of individual liberty in America’s founding and the frontier spirit provided the rich soil in which it has grown and developed.”
On the other hand, the groundwork for our nation in 1787 was laid by diverse individuals who utilized teamwork.
“What’s amazing is how well they all worked together,” says Carol Berkin, an expert on American history.
Yet the importance of teamwork in America gets overlooked, which Lester Thurow, former dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management, says is a mistake.
“There is nothing antithetical in American history, culture, or traditions to teamwork. Teams were important in America’s history – wagon trains conquered the West, men working together on the assembly line in American industry conquered the world, a successful national strategy and a lot of teamwork put an American on the moon first (and thus far, last). But American mythology extols only the individual…In America, halls of fame exist for almost every conceivable activity, but nowhere do Americans raise monuments in praise of teamwork,” wrote Thurow.
Teamwork Hard in 2022’s Remote Work, Pandemic Life
Jesse Sumrak, writing in foundr magazine in January agrees with Thurow’s assessment.
“While self-reliance is a critical attribute for any entrepreneur (or human), it often steps on the toes of another vital ingredient to success: teamwork,” writes Sumrak.
This has been one of the toughest times in American history to come together.
“Social distancing, remote work, and non-stop hustle culture are spreading an empowering go-it-alone attitude,” writes Sumrak. “The importance of teamwork in 2022 can’t be understated, and that’s not just extroverted opinions bleeding into reality—that’s a data-backed fact.”
The Sanger Leadership Center at the University of Michigan says that the move towards remote work during the pandemic has created its own set of challenges:
- Remote teams lack much of the social context – the presence of social cues, such as nonverbal nuances, movement, and so on – that can help provide information to align actions and work through workplace tensions.
- Asynchronous communication – emails and texts – makes it harder to clarify and resolve ambiguities and misunderstandings right away, instead of letting them linger.
- Even in video calls, the fluidity of normal, face-to-face interaction is lost: it is impossible to have quick parallel person-to-person check-ins that often accompany the main line of discussion in face-to-face team meetings.
“Remote teamwork is like a magnifying glass for underlying people issues in companies. This is because virtual collaboration is less forgiving of poor leadership and inadequate team structures and processes than face-to-face interactions,” writes Sanger’s Lindy Greer and Maxim Sytch. “Remote teams tend to suffer from misalignments more quickly in task strategies and workplace conflicts that escalate and become personal.”
Why Your Business Success Relies on Teamwork
Sumrak argues that there is real-world data to show a direct link between benefits to your business and teamwork. He cites five key benefits:
- Performance and Creativity Boosted
Sumrak points out that McKinsey found that “teams with more diverse backgrounds (ethnicity, age, gender, so on) showed improved creativity and performance by 35 percent.
McKinsey researchers said: “Moreover, we found that the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance. Companies with more than 30 percent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30, and in turn these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives, or none at all. A substantial differential likelihood of outperformance—48 percent—separates the most from the least gender-diverse companies.”
McKinsey also found the same performance enhancement for ethnic and cultural diversity: “Our 2019 analysis finds that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2014.”
- Employee Burnout Reduced
A report from Indeed.com found that more than half surveyed were feeling “burned out” since the start of the pandemic with two-thirds of those burned feeling worse as the pandemic stretched on.
Sumrak argues that “improved teamwork can better distribute work and share the load. When your managers and workers are having frequent, transparent conversations, they can nip burnout in the bud before it begins to affect health, performance, and results.”
- Employee Morale Improved
Do morale and performance go together? Yes, says an Accountemps survey: “Unfortunately, poor teamwork punches employee morale in the face. 33 percent of human resources (HR) managers said a breakdown in communication is at the heart of most morale problems. The solution? Improved communication.”
The Tulsa Fire Department, in another study, found that “a pattern links the productivity of personnel with their level of morale.”
Create a positive circle within your company by promoting teamwork which can boost morale and in turn will boost productivity.
- Bolsters Your Business Bottom Line
The biggest negative to eschewing teamwork is that poor communication among your employees can lead to bad business.
The "Communication Barriers in the Modern Workplace" report found that “the consequences of communication breakdowns in the workplace can be seen through increased stress levels (52 percent of respondents), delay or failure to complete projects (44 percent), low company morale (31 percent), missed performance goals (25 percent), and lost sales (18 percent). Respondents reported that nearly a third of sales lost due to communication breakdowns were valued between $100,000 and $999,999.”
- Fends Off “The Great Resignation”
The Great Resignation is putting pressure on businesses to retain staff and teamwork can prevent unnecessary turnover.
International Data Corporation predicts that businesses that foster collaborative work environments can expect to see:
- 30 percent lower staff turnover
- 30 percent higher productivity
- 30 percent higher revenue per employee
Employee issues, workplace productivity, HR regulations and more are not getting easier to deal with. In fact, they are becoming more complex. Let Employer Flexible help you with the HR challenges you and your company are facing.