Team spirit - now do you believe it matters?


Perhaps comparisons with sport and business performance have been overdone recently, but if Euro 2016 has done one thing - it’s proved that team spirit is a massive part of success. Iceland and their fans have delighted everyone through a show of togetherness that’s carried the team way beyond its capabilities. Wales have a similar level of team spirit and that combined with a couple of world class players has taken them to the semi finals.

But so what? Is there really a sporting model that business leaders can follow? Does it really have relevance to the everyday working world? A new finding from sports could have implications in business and elsewhere. New research by Roderick Swaab suggests there is a limit to the benefit top talents bring to a team. In many endeavors, success requires collaborative, cooperative work towards a goal that is beyond the capability of any one individual.

It’s said that great team spirit comes from success on the field - by being successful in what you do. That’s pretty obvious, but how do leaders give their teams the best chance of success? What are the things they can do to help their people be successful? Team spirit and bonding that would naturally have happened in the past, when people all worked in the same building, happens less and less now. Workers are all over the country or the world, and even those going into the office are doing so less frequently, as flexible working accelerates. Accenture predicts that 43% of the US workforce will be freelancers by 2020 working from multiple locations across multiple clients. In the UK freelancers alone make up around 40 per cent of the entire self-employed population, contributing £109 billion to the UK economy every year. Deloitte reports that only 12% of the executives they contacted feel they understand the way people work together in networks.

So today’s challenge is about building team spirit and success in a new way. Workers are provided with systems and tools, often with an expectation that success will just happen. We’ve seen so many organisations who on the surface have everything going for them - the right technology, the right people and the right products, and yet they struggle to be successful. That’s usually because the business forgot to tell them about the tools they have to help them work more effectively. How best to use these tools to communicate, find and share crucial information.

Profound changes in the workforce are making geographically dispersed teams much trickier to manage. Modern collaboration tools provide the glue or connective tissue needed bind people together and keep alive the invisible lines of connection between them. We estimate that 20%-30% must be added to the investment in enterprise collaboration tools for adoption activities that create and sustain team spirit. Unfortunately adoption is all too often an afterthought.


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