Good teamwork is essential for high performance in any business or non profit organisation. Certain features of voluntary organisations and charities make developing teamwork even more important. As well as enabling better performance teams can bring other benefits. This is explored in more detail below.
Teamwork and performance
Good teamwork is essential in all organisations. It signifies that:
- people are working towards a shared purpose and common goals and
- in so doing they are sharing their varied skills in complementary roles and in cooperation with each other.
Organisations are much more likely to perform well when their people work effectively as a team. This is because good teamwork creates synergy – where the combined effect of the team is greater than the sum of individual efforts. Working together a team can apply individual perspectives, experience, and skills to solve complex problems, creating new solutions and ideas that may be beyond the scope of any one individual.
As well as enhancing organisations’ performance good teamwork benefits individuals too. It enables mutual support and learning, and can generate a sense of belonging and commitment.
'Synergy is the highest activity of life; it creates new untapped alternatives; it values and exploits the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people’. - Stephen Covey
Teamwork in non profit organisations
Arguably good teamwork is even more important in the non profit sector. Voluntary organisations and charities face complex challenges. They:
- constantly have to adapt to changes in government policy
- have a culture of participation and democratic forms of decision making
- need to consider the views of multiple stakeholders and service users
- attract trustees, employees and volunteers who often have strong and passionate views
- are particularly vulnerable to resource scarcity.
Businesses share some of these features but the combination and degree of these in many voluntary organisations and charities makes the third sector unique.
Many of these third sector features are great strengths. They can also present challenges to working in a unified way as a team. To develop strengths and overcome challenges, it is important to build and maintain good team working. A good starting point is to understand something about different types of teams and what makes an effective team.
Benefits of teamwork in non profit organisations
Thinking about your own experience as a team member, what benefits has teamwork brought for you and the team?
Benefits vary depending on the purpose and size of the team but may include some of the following. A team can:
- apply a mix of skills that go beyond the scope of any one individual
- solve complex problems that take more than one mind
- generate new ideas
- coordinate individual activities towards a common bigger goal
- provide support and help to team members
- give people a sense of belonging
- enhance communication
- help people to learn from each other and develop
- generate commitment.
Understanding the value of teams and how to develop teamwork becomes an important leadership skill in the third sector.