Workplace Success Takes Teamwork

Teamwork is an essential part of workplace success. Like a basketball team working together to set up the perfect shot, every team member has a specific role to play in accomplishing tasks on the job. Although it may seem as if one player scored the basket, that basket was made possible by many people’s planning, coordination, and cooperation to get that player the ball.

Employers look for people who not only know how to work well with others but who understand that not every player on the team can or will be the one who gets the ball. When everyone in the workplace works together to accomplish goals, everyone achieves more.

The ability to work as part of a team is one of the most important skills in today’s job market. Employers are looking for workers who can contribute their own ideas, but also want people who can work with others to create and develop projects and plans.

Teamwork involves building relationships and working with other people using a number of important skills and habits, such as

  • Working cooperatively
  • Contributing to groups with ideas, suggestions, and effort
  • Communication (both giving and receiving)
  • Sense of responsibility
  • A healthy respect for different opinions, customs, and individual preferences
  • Ability to participate in group decision-making

When employees work together to accomplish a goal, everyone benefits. Employers might expect to “see” this in action in different ways. For example, team members in the workplace plan ahead and work cooperatively to assign tasks, assess progress, and deliver on time. They have professional discussions, during which differing approaches and opinions might be shared and assessed in a respectful manner.

Even when certain employees end up with tasks that were not their first choices, jobs get done with limited complaints because it is in the spirit of teamwork and with the overall goal in mind.

A leader or manager may often serve as the teamwork facilitator. In this case, team members participate respectfully in discussion, carry out assigned tasks, and defer to the leader in the best interest of the goal. Consensus is wonderful, but not always possible, and an assigned leader will often support and facilitate the decision-making necessary for quality teamwork to exist.

Learning the value of teamwork and becoming an effective member of a team is an important first step to developing leadership skills. Affording people experiences through which they learn to rely on themselves and others is an important factor in the development of a productive teamwork mentality. Use these experiences to bridge teamwork skills as a stepping-stone to leadership development.

There is no I in team

Teamwork can be tough. Dealing with different personalities and compromise is not necessarily easy, so what do you do when you are part of a team and there are barriers to the team’s success? This could be a sports team, a team at work, or a group working on a school or community project.

Some of the reasons why teams sometimes don’t work or what makes teamwork so difficult at times may include inconsistent team players, time issues, compatibility, differences in communication styles (both giving and receiving), lack of trust, no clear goal, and so forth.

Part of becoming a functional member of a team is learning to understand what you bring to the group and what you might need from others. It’s important to identify individual strengths and needs regarding teamwork.

How many shapes does it take?

It takes all types of team members to create a balanced, cohesive team. Not only does it take all different types of players to make a team effective; it takes all kinds of shapes, too. Five different “personality shapes” exist: The shapes are a square, a rectangle, a circle, a triangle, and a squiggle.

Which shape are you?

There are some people who believe there are five basic personality types, and each type tends to prefer a different shape. Knowing whether you, your coworkers and friends are squares, rectangles, circles, triangles, or squiggles just might help you build better careers, teams, and friendships. Here is what each shape might say about you, and how you can recognize other people for their shapes.

If you are a SQUARE: You are an organized, logical, and hardworking person who likes structure and rules. However, sometimes you have trouble making decisions because you always want more information. You feel most comfortable in a stable environment with clear directions on what to do. You tend to like things that are regular and orderly. You will work on a task until it is finished, no matter what.

How to spot a square: They appear to move “straight,” use precise or specific gestures, love routine, and are very concerned with detail. They are also very neat in their appearance and their personal workspace. They do a lot of planning and are always prompt.

If you are a RECTANGLE: You are a courageous (brave), exciting, and inquisitive explorer who always searches for ways to grow and change. You enjoy trying things you’ve never done before and love asking questions that have never been asked. You like structure and will often be the person to be sure things are done the proper way, taking all rules and regulations into consideration. When you are given a task you will start organizing it to be sure it can be done in the most systematic way.

How to spot a rectangle: These people often have “fleeting eyes and flushed faces.” They also tend to giggle, and they like variety. For example, they’ll come into work early or late—but not on time. Those who have offices tend to be disorganized with a mishmash of furniture.

If you are a TRIANGLE: You are a born leader who’s competitive, confident, and can make decisions. You also like recognition. You are goal oriented and enjoy planning something out and then doing it (you are motivated by the accomplishment). You will tend to look at big, long-term issues but might forget the details. When given a task, you set a goal and work on a plan for it. American business has traditionally been run by triangles, usually men, although more women are taking those roles today.

How to spot a triangle: They have powerful voices, love to tell jokes, and play as hard as they work. They also tend to be stylish dressers.

If you are a CIRCLE: You are social and communicative. There are no hard edges about you. You handle things by talking about them and smoothing things out with everybody. Communication is your first priority. When given a task, you will want to talk about it. You are a “people person,” with lots of sympathy and consideration for others. You listen and communicate well and are very perceptive about other people’s feelings. You like harmony and hate making unpopular decisions.

How to spot a circle: They are friendly, nurturing, persuasive, and generous. They tend to be relaxed and smile a lot. They’re talkative but have a mellow voice. They also have a full laugh and like to touch others on the shoulder and arm.

If you are a SQUIGGLE: You are “off-the-wall” and creative. You like doing new and different things most of the time and get bored with regularity. When given a task, you will come up with bright ideas about to do it. However, you don’t think in a deliberate pattern from A to B to C. Instead, you tend to jump around in your mind, going from A to M to X.

How to spot a squiggle: They can be “flashy,” dramatic, and extremely creative, and they don’t like highly structured environments. Both men and women squiggles tend to be funny and very expressive. They also have great intuition. Most performers and writers are squiggles.

Consider the following questions:

  • Do you think people have the characteristics of more than one shape?
  • Why do you think it is important to have all different shapes working on the same team?
    • The Square, Rectangle, and Triangle are all convergent. This means they are working TOWARD something specific and finite, and they do it in a logical and systematic way. However, they might be lacking in personal creativity.
    • The Circle and Squiggle are divergent. This means they are creative, extroverted, and intuitive. They will reach out around them into new areas and to other people, but they aren’t particularly systematic or dependable.
  • Do you think it is easy or difficult for different types of personalities to work together? Why is it important not only to understand how you work best but to learn how others work best?


The importance of teamwork is undeniable. The benefits of teamwork include the following:

  • Support—Teamwork leads to camaraderie between team members. This not only will lead to better social relationships but can also act as support when things go wrong.
  • Varied skills—Different team members bring with them different skills.
  • Distribution of work—Distributing work not only reduces each individual’s burden but also increases responsibility and ensures a better commitment to completing the task individually and as a whole.
  • Creativity—Different people have different skills and possess different perspectives. Therefore, any activity that involves teamwork benefits from the various creative thoughts and inspirations of different people.
  • Faster accomplishment—People working together will tend to complete a project faster than if one person was working alone.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor:


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