There is no “I” in “team”. Or the more humorous, “there is no team in “I”! Then there is the title of a John Maxwell book, “Teamwork makes the dream work”.

When people think of teamwork, they often think of sports teams. But we are also a part of management teams, task forces, project teams, families, and on and on. Actually, almost all work is done in teams. Even people who are thought to work alone, like research scientists, engineers, or professors, cannot do their work without others. An engineer cannot develop a new product without someone in marketing suggesting a need for the product. He/she will have to sell the idea to others to obtain funding and support to develop the idea and prototype. Once it is developed, the engineer has to get others excited about the new product, and then help them understand its features and benefits. All of this requires working with others. Even engineers work within a network of people with whom they are dependent to get their work done. In many cases, engineers are assigned to formal project teams to develop new products or test existing ones.

In a recently published study a group of us did on engineers in a large, multinational manufacturing firm, with half of the data coming from the German division and half from the US based division, we found that an engineer’s effectiveness was predicted by the emotional and social intelligence competencies (i.e., behavior) as observed by members of their project teams (not self-assessed). In a statistical, multivariate analysis (a method of determine the unique, independent variance caused by each variable in the study), the engineer’s cognitive intelligence did not predict their effectiveness, nor did their personality. Moreover, the amount of their effectiveness predicted by the EI and SI behavior was 31%! This is huge in research studies where typically scholars get excited by a finding of 3-5%. The results clearly said that being an engineer in an R&D division was a team sport.

If teams and teamwork is present everywhere, how do we become better team members? The key is learning to build and maintain better relationships. It means being able to talk to others and work on the same projects. It means being seen by others as cooperative and useful to the teams. But it also means something as basically human as being nice to each other.

Emerging research has been showing, for the last 5 years, that people who have relationships in which they perceive to have a shared vision with others (long term and sense of purpose, not merely goals), care for each other, including a sense of trust, and similar energy, are more effective, produce better financial performance at the organization level, produce more innovations, feel more engaged and show more organizational citizenship (i.e., doing more than is expected in your job description).

In the same engineering research study, the engineers who felt the most engaged in their work (i.e., motivated) felt a sense of shared vision in their project teams. Again, the unique impact was dramatic — shared vision accounted for 27% of the variance in their feelings of being engaged. That is not only better teamwork but a highly motivated workforce!

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