Is Your Client Underusing Teamwork?

By Ruth Pearce

Why Teamwork Is Important

Look up the strength of teamwork on the VIA website and you find this: "Teamwork means that in team situations you are committed to contributing to the team’s success. The team could be a work group or a sports team, but it could also refer to your family, marriage, or even a group of friends working on a project together... In other words, the person high in teamwork applies a certain way of acting in whatever context they consider themselves committed to the good of the group as a whole..."

Teamwork is a great strength. It brings us together to accomplish a common goal. It connects us and helps us to share and support each other. As a strength of the Virtue of Justice, it partners with Fairness and Leadership to create great group and community experiences. Research shows that it is strongly related to Leadership, Kindness, Fairness, Love and Honesty.

Generally, when we talk about Teamwork, we think of teams working together to accomplish something. We think of a work-team bringing in an important project, or a sports team winning an important match or event.

When Teamwork is a Low Ranking Strength

A coaching client looked at his VIA Character Strengths profile and immediately his eyes went to the lesser strengths. There at number 24 was the strength of teamwork. He looked gratified. “There!” he exclaimed. “I have had managers tell me I need to work on my teamwork. And I have always said I am just not a team player! I like working alone. I get my work done. I hand it onto the next person and move onto the next thing. No teamwork in me!” he concluded.

We discussed situations when teamwork is useful, we discussed how the VIA Survey does not assess weaknesses, so the low ranking does not suggest that the strength is absent. He was adamant.

Does Teamwork Appear In Other Life Domains?

A father of two young boys, we explored his time away from the office. He described his evenings as “fun, fruitful and full of connection with his family.” He recounted how most evenings after work he sits down with one or both of his sons to help with homework. He described it this way… "We sit together after dinner, and they take out their books and I take out something for me to read, such as an article on some topic I am interested in. We start studying together, and if the boys have a question, I am there to help them out.” He smiled a little at this point, and said, “Of course, with the work they are doing at their age it would be easy to just do it for them. But that is not the point. They are learning, so when they get stuck, I ask questions to help them think through how to solve the problem in front of them. I focus on how they go about it much more than whether they get the right answer. And when we are all done, we celebrate with a TV program together or maybe some time on the X-box playing a game.” He smiled again. “That is the highlight of my day! I love seeing them grow and learn.”

He picked up his VIA Strengths Results again and nodded. “OK,” he said, “I DO have some teamwork in me! Just not so much at work!”

Taking this new look at teamwork and how it shows up, my client realized he had choices about how to apply this, and other strengths in different domains of his life. A few weeks later he reported that at work his colleagues had remarked upon the “new him” as he was engaging in more team collaboration and offering more support. His comment? “I won’t do their work for them, but I can ask questions to help them move forward!”

How and when does your strength of teamwork show up? How else do you want to use it?

References: Niemiec, Ryan M. Character Strengths Interventions: a Field Guide for Practitioners. Hogrefe, 2018. P 134

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