Since we were young, we’ve had the importance of teamwork embedded into our minds. Phrases such as, “there’s no ‘I’ in team,” and “treat others the way you want to be treated” have been thrown at us time and again.
Teamwork is really the cornerstone to the success of any business or project. But, this can be hindered if there is too much emphasis placed on rewarding an individual.
Collaborate, don’t compete
Time and time again, we have seen how the success of collaboration trumps the success of competition. This was something that was explored every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from noon to 12:50 p.m. in my Small Group Communications course in college.
We had semester-long groups we were assigned to and we collaborated each class period on different exercises that proved the success of group work over going it alone. Rather than focus in on what one person accomplished, we were seen as a team that either succeed together or failed together.
Individuals exist, but teams are important
The best example of teamwork is in athletics. No team ever sees true success when one athlete shines above the rest. Sure, there are the Michael Jordans of the world that symbolize success but the overall success of the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s is what is truly impressive.
Jay Van Bavel and Dominic Parker of the Harvard Business Review examine the issue with rewarding individual performers. In their research, they discuss the importance of group identities and collaboration. They then explore four ways to cultivate a strong group identity in the work place.
1. Focus on the social needs of the employee.
Strong leaders will implement the fulfillment of social needs for their employees. Creating an environment that either satisfies a person’s need to belong, obtain status, feel distinctive, or maintain certainty or control will help make for a more successful employee.
2. Set superordinate goals.
Neuroscientists have found that cooperation is inherently rewarding. Strong leaders will create superordinate goals to relay to their employees the importance of each department, division, or team, and how it all works together in order to make a successful operation.
3. Collective and individual effort should both be rewarded.
Leaders should be focused on rewarding work that forwards the company or organization rather than forwarding a specific individual. Bonuses given for entire team performance is something commonly done within organizations. However, it is okay to highlight an individual’s contribution to a project or team, so long as it doesn’t separate them from the team.
4. Avoid the cons of conformity by embracing disagreement.
Some would assume that people within a group who argue against ideas and play Devil’s Advocate are looking for the group to fail. However, the opposite is true as those who are willing to speak up really want to see the group succeed. This criticism, so long as its constructive, is extremely beneficial to a group’s success and should be valued.