Those terrible teams!

We Aussies know all about teams.

We have the AFL the NRL, the Premier League, not to mention cricket, hockey, swimming, tennis, netball, bowls and of course the local drinking team.

Every one of us passionately follows a team or two so of course we know all about team work…..don’t we?

In management speak we come across the words team, teamwork, team building, team targets every day without giving a very much thought as to what a team really is and how it functions.

The most simplistic and common dictionary definition of a team is: “to come together to achieve a common goal”. Essentially the objective of teamwork is to achieve more than the sum total of the individual people involved.

Pretty simple hey? And yet recently I came across two comments which demonstrated to me that not everyone finds the team concept so simple.

The first comment was in the form of a question to a SME advice column in a major daily newspaper – “I recently started a small business with a partner and he doesn’t work as hard as me. How can I get him to lift his input?”

The second was a question asked during a seminar “As a team leader I find it very difficult getting everyone in a team to contribute equally; what do you recommend?”

In both instances my thought was that these guys just don’t understand team work!

Let’s return to the definition and to that “common goal”. The first thing a good team leader does is to define the “common goal” the individual tasks out and best match the team members to the task.

A simple team check list can help such as:-

  • Very clearly and simply define the Common Goal
  • Determine the best strategies to achieve the Common Goal
  • Identify the individual tasks to achieve the Common Goal
  • Clearly communicate  the Common Goal and the individual tasks to the team
  • Discuss the strategies and tasks with the team and allow for questions and input
  • Analyse the individual team members, their skills and their responses to the Common Goal
  • Allocate the individual tasks to team members. Ensure each member understand what the whole team is doing
  • Lead but allow autonomy within tasks
  • Remember you may be the leader but your objective is for THE TEAM to be successful
  • Build RESPECT & TRUST with each member for the different skills and contributions they bring to the team

Sporting teams are very good examples of team work; as the batsmen toil in the sun chalking up a hundred runs do they resent the rest of the team sitting back in the pavilion? In a soccer game the goal keeper spends most of his time standing around whereas the forwards are running several kilometres, constantly tackling opposing players to gain control of the ball.

These sporting teams understand the essence of team work; it takes different members with different skills to tackle different tasks at differing times to deliver the very best result.

In my experience the more diverse the skills and personalities the more effective the team, be it a corporate management team, taskforce or board. I once served on a board with a co member of ferocious intellect, at times he and I arm-wrestled over finances and governance for an hour or so before reaching agreement. This was frustrating but never personal because the board had that magic ingredient RESPECT.

Without respect no team will function and without leadership no team will build and retain respect.

In summary there are as many differing “types of teams” as there are differing individuals and in theory no one type is better than another. The difference is in the quality of leadership, the clear communication of The Common Goal and the individual tasks task and most importantly the RESPECT & TRUST of the team members.

If you have respect and trust then yes   you are part of a team. If its lacking you are a part of a group of people……..quite a different beast! 


Neil Steggall

Neil Steggall

Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

Neil is the CEO of Wardour Capital Partners, leading emerging growth & mid tier advisors. He is also a Non Executive Director of Family Planning Australia and The Australia Asia Business Alliance. Neil is an experienced director & corporate mentor and has chaired or served on numerous board committees including finance & audit, governance, compliance, strategy, acquisition, remuneration & ethics.


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Nikki Gilhome

Nikki Gilhome , Owner at Chilligin Pty Ltd

I really enjoyed the article, the points are terrific and well made but I don't understand the title....sorry!

Brian Mallyon

Brian Mallyon , Owner at Luckypole Limited

Really good article Neil, thanks. One thing that I think should be included is that within the common goal, the leader will also be conscious of the individual goals of the team members, perhaps as a form of motivation to achieve that common goal, as well as built trust and respect. To further the sporting analogy, if I am on 90 runs, but the team has enough runs to declare, the captain will, if possible, allow me some additional time to make that ton.

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