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3 Ways Teamwork Doesn't Work and How to Avoid These Pitfalls Just because you've relabeled a group of people in the same room a team does not mean they will work as a team.

By Jeff Boss Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Nothing gets accomplished in business -- or in life, for that matter -- without the assistance of others, which is why teams are so paramount to getting work done.

The challenge, however, is when the thought of having a team supersedes the effort required to generate teamwork. Being part of a team and working as a team are two completely different things -- and oftentimes leaders can be too quick to label groups as teams, thinking that by calling a group a team, teamwork will ensue.

Fat chance.

Related: How to Build Social Capital Within Your Team

Teams are formed out of a number of intangibles, such as having trust in each other to work competently and with positive intent; having a shared purpose that binds divergent interests together; and open communication that enables the sharing of knowledge such that each team member can make the right decisions with the right information based on their shared purpose.

It's that easy.

Yeah, right. If yielding the benefit of teams -- known as teamwork -- was easy, then there would be no distinguishing factor between regular and elite teams.

So what makes a team? That's a topic for another article, but you can rest assured that teamwork doesn't automatically sprout out of a team simply by taking any of the following shortcuts.

1. Placing a 'one' in front of the name

While the intention to connect members is positive, unity comes from actions, not intentions. Placing a "one" in front of a business department or company doesn't reveal the untapped potential just waiting to be unlocked known as teamwork. Teams and teamwork are not the same. Joe Sales Guy, for instance, may be part of the sales team, but if nobody trusts each other enough to share information and work toward a common purpose, then that team remains a group comprised of individuals who just share the same team name.

Related: 4 Warning Signs Your Team Is Working in Silos, and How to Destroy Them

2. Re-labeling a group as a team

This is perhaps the worst of it all. When senior executives call themselves a team yet they-- and everyone else -- know they're not. The problem here is the lack of credibility they have with the rest of the organization in promoting teamwork. Nobody will buy in to the teamwork pitch they're selling if employees don't see it first forming at the top. Intentions, behaviors and results all start at the top. Only after they're displayed does everyone else really adopt them.

3. Being nice rather than honest

People sometimes confuse conformism for teamwork, thinking that if there's no arguing, then the team dynamic must be healthy and productive. Wrong. When you avoid facing difficult issues, you inhibit not only your own self-management skills but also those of others. Then, as a result, team dynamics change. Animosity, jealousy, uncertainty and resentment spur up and then snowball into a toxic contagion that prevents the team from reaching optimal potential.

Think of difficult conversations as excess air -- the kind that causes a balloon to pop, because it's passed maximum capacity. Teams -- relationships -- are the same way. They need an outlet for that air to escape. Otherwise, "Pop!"

Moreover, teams avoid facing conflict when there's a lack of trust between members, and that lack of trust stems from one of two (or both) fears -- how the other person will respond to the conflict and what the other person will think of them during or after the conflict. For teamwork to evolve, there must not be fear of reprimand when voicing one's concerns.

How do you foster teamwork?

Related: 4 Ways to Keep the Team Working Together Without an Office

Jeff Boss

Leadership Team Coach, Author, Speaker

Jeff Boss is the author of two books, team leadership coach and former 13-year Navy SEAL where his top awards included four Bronze Stars with valor and two Purple Hearts. Visit him online at

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