In the article, The Myth of Teamwork: Why Successful Leaders Engage the “I” in the TEAM to Succeed! Weisman (2011), who is a Workplace Communication Expert, roots for the importance of individual effort in the success of teams. Weisman is against the modern-day trend of focusing on teamwork while overlooking the importance of individual effort. The writer notes that this practice of overlooking individual effort is extremely dangerous to organizations as it can deceive workers. Weisman states that teamwork "is a platitude that organizational leaders throw around that is killing teamwork in those very same organizations”. He posits that the only time when there is true teamwork in an organization is when there is success. This is when workers celebrate as a “team”. However, the actual celebration is about collective individual effort which made the success possible.
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Weisman (2011) posits that leaders should focus on communicating the big picture brought about by individual effort, instead of merely teamwork. To Weisman, team work is a myth. He proposes a definition of teamwork that he picked from one of his clients thus; “teamwork is a group of individual interdependent successful efforts.” Weisman concludes by stating that teamwork on its own never fails, but individuals can fail it.
I support Weisman’s view on teamwork. This article gives the foresight that leaders in organizations need. It is a wakeup call to managers to clean up their houses. It is, indeed, true that most companies spend a lot of their budget organizing workshops to instill teamwork in their employees. Teamwork pundits are hired at exorbitant prices to facilitate such workshops. Many activities are taught to workers with the wish that they would foster teamwork. Examples of popular activities in these workshops are forming a circle while holding hands, competing in groups, and breaking one stick versus many sticks at once, among others. Once the workers go back to their places of work, teamwork remains an illusion. Everybody is immersed in his or her individual specialty and the vocabulary “teamwork” is almost forgotten. It only reappears in other workshops or when there is success in the organization. For a good evidence of the illusion of team work, let us consider an instance of funds embezzlement in an organization. Normally, it is the accountant who is fired. Where was the team during the theft? Why isn’t the whole team fired? The answer is simple; teamwork, as envisioned, does not exist, individual effort does.
Individual effort is all that matters in organizations. If teamwork is to be there, it will remain secondary to individual effort. Just as Weisman (2011) has noted, the good description of teamwork is “the quarterback handoff to the running back in football”. In this example, a player makes maximum use of his or her position before handing over to another player. The other player equally exploits his or her position in pursuit of success. As a result, it is an individual's effort that is at play. No team is present. The team will only appear after all work is done. This, too, depends on how successful is the endeavor. Otherwise, if the effort leads to failure, each worker will go back to his or her cocoon and continue working. What this means is that, it is high time managers and other leaders of organizations realize the folly of focusing on teamwork. If there is something that needs focus, then, it is an individual’s effort. All scheduled workshops and seminars on teamwork should immediately be replaced with ones focusing on individual effort.
In the article The Spirit of Teamwork, Gergen (2007) attempts to balance the “I” and the "team". The author argues that, today’s executives depend on partnerships with others to meet their challenges. The author notes that, given the many complications facing organizations, individual managers approach one another to look for solutions. The article gives examples of various world leaders and how they approached teamwork. For instance, the Bush administration is noted to focus both on the “I” and the “team”. A good example is its decision to attack Iraq after the September 11 terrorist attack. This was an individual effort of the Bush administration which was pursued to the latter. However, team work was seen when the same administration approached friendly states, like the United Kingdom, to join its pursuit. Gergen (2007) argues that today’s trend on teamwork is to focus on both the “I” and the “team”.
There is no significant difference between the opinions of Weisman (2011) and Gergen (2007). Not only does Gergen’s article support Weisman’s view on the importance of individual effort, but also adds another dimension to the importance of teamwork. The main agreement of the two writers is that; the individual remains crucial in initiating the required change. It is only after the individual plays his part, that the service of others is required. While Gergen (2007) posits that that both the individual and the team are crucial, Weisman (2011) posits that, even in the so called team, it is the individuals that matter. The point of departure will only come when one explicitly focuses on teamwork without the individual effort in mind.
Teamwork cannot stand alone without individual effort. It is an individual's effort that begets teamwork, and not vice-versa. It is only when each individual worker does his or her best, that we may later celebrate as a team. With this in mind, organization should change their workshop syllabi on teamwork to focus on individual effort. With immediate effect, managers should demystify teamwork. As Weisman (2011) says, it takes individual effort for the “team” to realize success.
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