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Great Teamwork: 10 Important Characteristics of Successful Teams

Have you noticed that when asked about what employees learned from playing games almost every time, the answer is teamwork?

We often hear teamwork makes the dream work. I agree. But what is teamwork? How do we build teamwork? I will answer these questions and more in this article.

Understanding Teamwork

Teamwork does not come naturally to most of us. In a competitive world, everyone seems to be the enemy. In the workplace, people compete for budget, promotions, and recognition.

Putting high-performing professionals together sometimes produces champion teams. But most often, teams need deliberate effort to build relationships and develop teamwork skills and commitment.

Let’s continue.

What is teamwork?

Teamwork consists of skills and attitudes that make individuals work together as a team to achieve a common goal. Teamwork happens when members recognize the role of each other, communicate effectively, anticipate and meet each other’s demands, make decisions together, commit to each other, trust and inspire confidence, and engage in participative leadership.

Workshops participants find it easy to say “teamwork is the answer” because it is the answer. It was difficult for them to define because it is composed of interrelated behaviors that, when combined, create the magic of teamwork.

Teamwork makes the whole bigger than the sum of all of its parts. Teamwork makes 1 plus 1 equal 3. Synergy is what happens when people have teamwork. Individually, they cannot do much. But together, they can move mountains.

A common assumption is that teamwork is good – and everyone will naturally do it.

Teamwork is not natural to most of us. In schools, we were brought up to be the best that we could be as individuals. Everyone is our competition. We are rewarded according to our individual achievements.

At work, we get promoted individually too. We did not join organizations as teams. We applied as individuals. We work on promotion as individuals.

Why is teamwork important?

Teamwork is important because it helps a group of people who work together to produce better outcomes. Teams are expected to solve problems and the ability to collaborate brings better results.

Great teamwork allows the team to build cooperative relationships and solve problems together. When they are open to diverse ideas, they become more creative and innovative. Members learn from each other, and they turn “competition” and conflict into opportunities to create something better.

There is synergy when there is teamwork. Each member of the team becomes a multiplier.

Build great teamwork.

10 Characteristics of Great Teamwork

Great teamwork is a combination of behaviors that you can find in successful teams. For example, successful teams focus on goals, are clear about the roles of each member, communicate effectively, make decisions together, and managed conflict. Learn all the ten characteristics of successful teams.

By helping your teams develop these characteristics, you will be able to cultivate teamwork.

1. Pursuing A Common Goal

Clear goals help a team know when it has been successful by defining precisely what the team is doing and what it wants to accomplish.

Members can only commit to something they truly believe in. Teamwork happens when people are marching in the same direction.

In this sense, a team leader is like the coxswain who must steer the team in one direction.

In many workplaces, individual members come with an agenda. Team leaders need to recognize these agendas – and must connect personal agendas to team agendas.

Members play different team roles.

2. Well-Defined Roles

Every member of a team has a role to play. When members play their roles, the team works like a well-oiled machine. Knowing what you can expect from others, and what they can expect from you makes teamwork easy.

Defined roles help team members understand why they are on a team. There is no confusion as to who will do what.

One can become a member of many teams. That’s now common in many workplaces. We are all involved in accomplishing tasks, but not equally.

If you are the owner of the task, you must get it done. You may get support from others. But the responsibility is yours. Your supervisor will monitor you – and that is his responsibility. Knowing which tasks you owned, and which ones you need to support will help you do your roles.

You will become an effective time manager too. When everyone plays their many roles consciously, you will see them as working together. Outsiders call this teamwork.

When the members experience conflict, it may be related to their roles too. When roles are not defined, people tend to work on every from a boss. And in some organizations, one may have many bosses.

You can work hard. But if you don’t know the task you own, you are likely to fail. And people think that to be a lack of teamwork.

This is easy to solve. You can go back to the clarification of goals. Then, identify the roles everyone must play. 

Open and Honest team communication is necessary for team success.

3. Open & Honest Communication

Open communication is when team members can openly express their ideas to one another. Honest communication is when you can share your thoughts, be vulnerable, and yet be not afraid of what people will think of you.

Many great ideas are killed before they are spoken.

Great teams welcome ideas from members. These characteristics build trust and confidence.

When you work with members who appreciate what you have to say, you gravitate toward each other.

Again, others will say that you have great teamwork. And they are correct. But what they don’t recognize is that you allow each other to express themselves.

Most team problems are the results of poor communication or lack of communication skills, such as listening well or providing constructive feedback.

You can cultivate a culture of open and honest communication. You can declare it when you create your team canvas. You can encourage shy people to speak their minds.

This means that even if you believe that you are the most intelligent person in the room, allow others to speak their minds too.

shared decision making

4. Shared Decision Making

Decision-making is the act of choosing between two or more courses of action. It follows the process of identifying the decision, gathering information, presenting alternatives, weighing options, and choosing the best option. It is very important for the team to understand how decisions are made.

Effective decision-making is essential to a team’s progress. Teams tasked to solve problems should also have the power and authority to implement solutions.

The team must clarify how they’ll make decisions.

You can sense great teamwork when teams can make quick decisions. Others will call that agility.

It does not mean that all decisions must be decided by the whole team. There are decisions that the team, must decide. There are decisions that the team leader must make. And there are decisions that a team member, as the owner of the task, must make.

What is important is that the team is clear about the level of decision-making.

conflict management

5. Appreciative Conflict Management

Conflict management is the process whereby disagreements between team members are resolved. Many team conflicts are products of miscommunication, unclear goals, undefined roles, and the lack of ability to solve problems. The aim of appreciative conflict management is not only to resolve conflict but turn conflict into collaboration.

Managed conflict ensures that problems are not swept under the rug. The team welcomes members’ points of view about an issue and recognizes a well-managed conflict as a healthy way to bring out new ideas and solve whatever seems unsolvable.

When you turn conflict into collaboration, teamwork appears.

You will see teamwork because members see something beyond individual interests. Though conflict management does not always have win-win results for the parties, it is always a win for the team.

Great teams do not only manage conflict. They mine conflict too.

embracing diversity

6. Embracing Diversity

Embracing diversity means accepting that members of the team come from different backgrounds, colors, beliefs, talents, and skills. It means also that members have different aspirations. Great teams find ways to know the members at a deeper level.

Embracing Diversity is at the heart of building a team. Team members are valued for their unique contributions to the team.

Diversity of thinking, ideas, methods, experiences, and opinions helps create a high-performing team.

To encourage diversity, make an effort to know each other. In team meetings, team leaders may schedule icebreakers and trust-building activities.

You don’t have to wait for a once-a-year team-building program to get to know each other. Welcome people by making it known that you are interested to know them, even their families.


7. Balanced Participation

Balanced participation means that each team member joins the discussion when their contribution is pertinent to the team assignment. Everyone’s opinions are sought and valued by others on the team.

In meetings, I know I can share a lot of ideas. But I also know that a meeting is not about me.

When I am leading a meeting, I ensure that I give everyone the opportunity to share their thoughts.

This is why I use a lot of post-it notes. Some members of the team are not always comfortable speaking. But by allowing them to right first, I make them think before they share.

It does not mean that everyone has to speak for the same number of minutes. You know that already, right? It only means that we have to let everyone know that their ideas are welcome too.

Can you see how balanced participation is very much connected to characteristic #3? Open and honest communication works when everyone is valued.

cooperative relationships

8. Cooperative Relationships

Cooperative relationships refer to the process of making people work together in a spirit of trust, open communication, and shared learning.

Team members know that they need one another’s skills, knowledge, and expertise to produce something together that they could not do as well alone.

Cooperative relationships are the hallmark of high-performing teams.

In Successful Team Building, I shared the difference between team building games and team games. Team games are about one team trying to win against all other teams. The aim is to be on top.

Team-building games, on the other hand, aim to build collaboration. You want win-win and learning. Team building is an excellent approach to building cooperative relationships.

smiling employees

9. Positive Atmosphere

A positive atmosphere indicates that members of the team are committed and involved. There is a climate of trust and openness.

To promote a positive atmosphere, team leaders need to show empathy. Team members need to know that you, the leader, understand where they are coming from.

Promote mental health. Make your workplace safe from work. Don’t allow bullies and power-trippers to take control of your workplace environment.

There is no teamwork when someone is bullying another. When this is a problem, create your anti-bullying policy.

Great teams keep an open line of communication. Let everyone know that they can get help from team members when the pressure of work is no longer good for their health.

participative leadership

10. Participative Leadership

Participative leadership means that leaders share the responsibility and the glory, are supportive and fair, create a climate of trust and openness, and are good coaches and teachers. In addition, leaders are good role models, and leadership shifts at various times.

You must have thought about it in our discussions on role clarity and decision-making.

Essentially, everyone who plays a role has a leadership role. Every member shares with you the responsibility to make the team succeed. And at times, that member has to make decisions as the owner of the problem.

Teamwork happens when people accept shared leadership.

Discover the 18 effective ways to build teams.

Team building is a combination of interventions to inspire, equip, and enable a team to succeed. It is not just an event, a collection of games, or an intellectual concept. 

You do not build the team the same way. Those who use a cookie-cutter approach to team building do not understand the more important purposes of team building.

Team Building Articles

Are you looking for more ideas to build teamwork? The following articles may help you.


A team is a group of people with complementary skills, committed to a common purpose, a set of performance goals, and an approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

Not all organizations need to develop teams. Team-based organizations put people together as a strategy. It has been proven that high-performance teams deliver exponential results.

Build teams and help your organization succeed. Only a team committed to a common purpose can make things happen. Behind every breakthrough is a great team.

There are 12 advantages of working in teams. A cohesive team demonstrates excellent teamwork. Members commit to supporting each other. They turn their conflicts into collaboration, and they drive results.

The team-based organizations recognize the following advantages.

  • More input leads to better ideas and decisions.
  • Higher quality output.
  • Involvement of everyone in the process.
  • Increased ownership and buy-in by members.
  • Higher likelihood of implementation of new ideas.
  • Widens the circle of communication.
  • Shared information means increased learning.
  • Increased understanding of other people’s perspectives.
  • Increased opportunity to draw on individual strengths.
  • Ability to compensate for individual weaknesses.
  • Provides a sense of security.
  • Develops personal relationships.

On the other hand, forming a team does not always result in teamwork. Dysfunctional teams tend to sabotage themselves.

When a group lacks team awareness and the skills necessary to work together, they don’t work as a team.

Calling a group of people a team is a mistake. There are workplace activities that do not require team efforts too. The following are the advantages of working in teams.

  • Requires more time.
  • Can lead to many meetings.
  • Often difficult to schedule mutual time.
  • Requires individuals to give more of themselves.
  • May take longer to make a decision.
  • May be used as an excuse for lack of individual performance.
  • Personality conflicts are magnified.
  • Disagreements can cause strained relationships.
  • Potential for subgroups to form.
  • Teams can become exclusive rather than inclusive.
  • May lead to unclear roles.
  • “Group think” can limit innovation.

About The Author

Build Successful Teams

A professional team-building facilitator can help you tailor-fit your live and virtual team-building experiences to your needs.

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Build teams the right way. Help team leaders solve problems and create opportunities. Equip them with skills so they can make it easy for teams to win, win, and win.

Jef Menguin

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