Teamwork‘We’re all in this together’ is a common slogan around Covid19 and I’ve seen it previously used referring to the economy, the environment, climate change and so on.  It’s put me thinking about the workplace and what ‘we’re all in this together’ means in the work context.

For many ‘we’re all in this together’ is seen as synonymous with a call to teamwork.  Indeed we hear so much about teamwork and collaboration and the benefits accruing to organisations that get this right.  A quick check in the Harvard Business Review site yields 2,448 results – undoubtedly there are real benefits – but it’s far from that simple.

Before prescribing ‘teamwork’ as a cure-all it’s vital to establish if you’re actually dealing with a team in the first place.  So what’s a team? Essentially, a team is a group of people with different skills and different tasks, who work together on a common project, service, or goal.  Common characteristics of a Team include


  • Shared goals and purposes
  • Allocated responsibilities and accountabilities
  • A level of interdependence including mutual commitment to both the goals and each other
  • Willingness of members to place the collective goal above their own priorities
  • Clear boundaries – who is/is not included
  • Structured communications

Teamwork Within a team, it’s important to distinguish between those activities that are best delegated fully to individuals and those that benefit from the genuine ‘we’re all in this together’ of true teamwork.  I’ve seen teams crippled because of a notion that they should all be part of every decision. Did you ever sit through a meeting where 5% of the agenda related to your area?  How energised, productive, or even valued did you feel?

One thing is absolutely true – to be an effective team you need clarity and trust.  This is most effectively established with transparency and everyone having a say. I learned early on in my days leading teams and groups that once I’d had 1:1 conversations with everyone, the most vital intervention was taking time to agree our rules of engagement with each other.  Getting clear on how we would support and challenge each other, what behaviours we wanted and did not want from each other.  This could get right down to the detail out of hours contacts, how we would communicate, what mechanisms we’d use for sharing information or tracking progress.  Most importantly, we agreed how we would behave with each other, watch out for each other, have one another’s backs.  These sessions were the foundation stones for mutual trust and respect.

I facilitated a Clarify & Contract session with a team recently and one of the things the leader asked for was a phone call rather than an e-mail in particular circumstances.  With that there was an exclamation from a team member ‘I thought I was annoying you with phone calls so I’ve been sending you emails when I’d much rather talk with you.’ They both burst out laughing!  The truth is though that they had been annoying each other – based on assumptions.

What’s brilliant about having a Clarify & Contract session is that you get past assumptions.  You co-create how you’re going to work together and do that by talking and debating and documenting your commitments to each other.

If you’d like to have the freedom to participate in your Clarify & Contract session without carrying the dual role of facilitator, why not check out our Clarify & Contract Team Workshop and let us help you supercharge your team from the get go.

Mojo For Leaders provides a suite of online support for leaders who want to ensure that they are at their best in meeting today’s challenges such as their Platinum Thinking Partnership,  CLARITY Thinking SessionsCLARIFY & CONTRACT Team Workshops and  FOCUS Decision Making Session.