Human Skills: Teamwork

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This Series: Human Skills

Any job posting that you look at will specify they want a “team player” or “someone who works well with others.” Some call it “culture fit.” In fact, this is so common it’s almost become cliché – we all want to work with people we enjoy. We want to work with people who are invested in our success and interested in positive outcomes.

But what does teamwork really look like? How do we achieve teamwork in our organizations, and how do we screen for it as something we can evaluate in a job interview or on the job itself?

Teamwork can be boiled down to at least three core skills: humility, honesty and creativity. Let’s examine these three skills and how they interplay with teamwork.


Teamwork matters to many people because we recognize that the collective effort is often superior to an individual effort. Working together as a team produces better results. It’s why diversity matters on teams, and it’s why working as a team is so important. But what does it take to work on a team?

In one word: humility. 

A team filled with people who are insistent on their own way or “go it alone” doesn’t make a good team. In contrast, a team filled with people who are humble and willing to share praise, credit and success with other members of the team help people feel comfortable reciprocating that behavior, and this builds camaraderie.

Equally important is the willingness to share responsibility, blame and consequences when the team is less successful. Team members who shrug off responsibility create a culture where such behavior is expected and accepted, and the result is disastrous to morale and consistent achievement as a team. 

Humble team members accept responsibility and share success. They acknowledge that teamwork is about working as a group, not as individuals, and that every person on the team succeeds or struggles together. 


We know that team members are humble with each other. But to truly succeed as a team, members need to be honest with each other, too.

Honesty is hard to come by sometimes. But it’s critical to team success.

When I speak of honesty, I don’t mean “brutal” honesty where team members attack or passive-aggressively target one another. Instead, I mean the kind of honesty that puts the feelings and needs of team members first, while still holding them accountable and sharing the needs and feelings of the person being honest.

Honesty comes down to communicating needs and feelings for the good of the team as a whole. Honestly estimating, for example, is good for a team: saying something can be done when it cannot is bad for morale. Communicating needs is crucial to team building and culture creation; understanding that everyone has unique needs helps team members complete tasks while honoring each other’s needs.

Brutal honesty doesn’t work here. Neither does passive-aggressiveness. Both of these are types of “honesty” that are detrimental to team morale and camaraderie. When team members are brutally honest, they hurt those around them. When we act passive-aggressively, we create a toxic environment that no one wants to work in. Humble, empathetic honesty, though, builds a trusting team that works through problems and achieves success together. 


When we are humble and honest with each other, we have the ability to do our best work, and this engenders the best teamwork skill of all: creativity. 

Creative teams solve problems in new and unique ways that team members may never have stumbled upon by themselves. New solutions are invented and results are achieved. Teams that are creative and firing on all cylinders are effective teams, and creativity can only be fostered through the honest exchange of ideas and the humility of the team members.

Creative teams may still struggle. They may underestimate work, or be challenged by requirements, or even fail to achieve the objective. But teams that are creative are more apt to be successful than teams where everyone works independently, or teams where nobody shares their needs. Why? Simply because the team members feel a sense of connection, and that connection creates a sense of purpose and achievement. We succeed together, we fail together, we work together.

What kind of team are you on?

Is your team the kind of team that embraces humility, honesty and creativity? If not, what can you do today to foster these three skills in the team you’re on? Can you lead by example, showing humility and honesty to, and fostering creativity in, your team members? Who can you honor for their success, reward for their honesty, and embrace for their creativity? Teams and their culture change slowly, and yet achieving a solid team work culture is possible, with consistent, steady progress.

Brandon Savage is the author of Mastering Object Oriented PHP and Practical Design Patterns in PHP

Posted on 2/15/2022 at 10:06 am
Categories: Uncategorized

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