Teams That Work Book Summary - Teams That Work Book explained in key points
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Teams That Work summary

Scott Tannenbaum and Eduardo Salas

The Seven Drivers of Team Effectiveness

4.5 (98 ratings)
24 mins
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    Teams That Work
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    Teamwork is a learned skill, but it won’t overcome a lack of capabilities.

    Back in the 1980s, coauthor Scott Tannenbaum joined an intramural basketball team. Going into the third game, he was feeling pretty confident. His team had already won their first two matches, and, perhaps more importantly, they played well together as a team.

    But on the day of that third game, he watched in disbelief as the other team warmed up. They were dunking the ball, and could jump higher and shoot better. On Scott’s team, the tallest player could barely touch the rim with a running start! Needless to say, they didn’t win that day.

    Here’s the key message: Teamwork is a learned skill, but it won’t overcome a lack of capabilities.

    We all love a good story about the plucky, but talentless, underdogs who come together as a team and pull off an unexpected victory. Unfortunately, these stories are mostly the stuff of fiction. Scott’s intramural team had an abundance of spirit, but they just didn’t have the skills needed to beat their competition.

    No matter how much you invest in making your team effective, it’s important to recognize that teams simply cannot perform well if they don’t have sufficient skills to do their jobs. If your team is lacking in a key area, then you’ll have to hire someone or send your team for training. No amount of teamwork can make up for that gap.

    That said, it’s also true that some team leaders fixate on talent, filling their teams with the best technical experts money can buy. They, too, may find their teams’ performances are still mediocre at best. How can that be? Surely a team made up of the best would make the best team, wouldn’t it?

    The key is to think of teamwork as a capability like any other. Being a team player isn’t merely an attitude or personality trait; it requires specific capacities and skills – these can be learned by the team or directly hired, just like technical skills. And teams that demonstrate these capabilities perform better.

    So, what are team-related capabilities? Research emphasizes four: good communication, such as listening actively and asking effective questions; giving and receiving feedback; working through conflict; and interpersonal skills like empathy and the ability to interpret nonverbal cues.

    While your team members need the technical knowledge to do their jobs, you can further boost their performance by investing in, and hiring for, team-related skills.

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    What is Teams That Work about?

    Teams That Work (2020) presents the seven drivers that make any team effective. Packed with the latest research and real-world examples, this practical guide draws on the many years of experience of coauthors Scott Tannenbaum and Eduardo Salas in helping teams succeed.

    Who should read Teams That Work?

    • Managers or leaders who want to boost team performance
    • Anyone who wants to be a better team player
    • Teamwork skeptics who’ve tried it all

    About the Author

    Scott Tannenbaum is president of the Group for Organizational Effectiveness, where he has spent the past 25 years consulting with hundreds of businesses and organizations around the world. He’s a former professor of business management and his research has been published extensively.

    Eduardo Salas is a professor at Rice University and an expert in organizational psychology. Before academia, he spent many years working as a psychologist in the United States Navy. He has coauthored over 450 journal articles and more than 25 books.

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