Teamwork is when a group of individuals work together to accomplish a common goal. I believe that there are different types of teamwork, that it is not one-size-fits-all. The most obvious and probably commonly understood place where teamwork is expected would be in sports.
Baseball is a team sport. Although the offensive side, batting, is purely individual, it would be rather difficult on the defensive side to man the field with only one person. On defense, nine players take up position in nine specifically designated places on the field. Each player has a very specific role and area of responsibility. In fact they each have a specific area of the field where they are supposed to stay. In a good team, each player is individually talented and skilled at performing their specific task. Generally speaking, someone who is good at pitching will not necessarily be good at playing third base, and vice versa. Likewise, it is not wise for any one player to intrude on another player’s area of responsibility. If the shortstop decided that he should do the left fielder’s job, then it would leave a big gap in the infield and likely cause confusion when the ball was hit to left field. So, in baseball, good teamwork is every player sticking to their own role and not straying too far.
The teamwork in these three sports I find to be quite similar. In all three, and just like baseball and football, the players on these teams play specific positions and have specific skills and talents that make them good at their position. But, unlike baseball and football, the lines between positions is often times quite blurred or even non-existant. In football, there is only a few players who are designated to carry the ball, but in these sports, all players have almost equal chance of touching the ball or puck at any given time. Also, unlike baseball, the area of responsibility for any player is generally the whole field or court. Sure, they generally stick to a designated area, but at any time it is expected that any player who is in position to get the ball or puck should do so. It is not uncommon to see a defenseman in soccer playing well past the half line, and in basketball the players move around so much that it’s sometimes hard to tell who is a point guard and who is a forward. In any game, all players are offense and all the same players are defense. There is no such thing as “that’s not my position” in these sports, except maybe for the goalies. They all have a common goal, and they all do whatever is necessary in their own power to accomplish that goal.
Football is also a team sport. On either offense or defense there are 11 men on the field for each team. Like baseball, football also has several specifically designated positions that require individual talent and skill, but unlike baseball, it is not a bad thing for one player to “intrude” on another player’s area of responsibility. In fact, at times, it is quite necessary. In any given play, all defensive players must be ready to make a tackle if the ball carrier comes their way, and likewise all offensive players must be ready to make a block if they are in position to do so. If a wide receiver said to the running back, “Hey, I’m a receiver..my job is to catch the ball, not block for you.”, he probably wouldn’t be on the field much longer. Heck, even punters and field goal kickers have to play running back and/or defense every now and then. So, good teamwork in football looks both like baseball and like those other sports in that each player does have a very specific role, but at the same time may be called upon to act outside of their box and do what is necessary to win the game.
So, what’s the point?
I believe that all three of these examples are true teamwork, but obviously it takes different forms depending on what the goal is. This works the same in other arenas. In the work place, sometimes you need everyone to stick to their designated roles and not venture into other areas, but other times you need everyone step out of their box and just do what is necessary to get the job done. I’ve seen this personally from working on a submarine. During normal operations, each person has a specific role. Since each person has specific skills that maybe the other do not, this works best and the ship runs smoothly. However, at times, such as during a fire or other kind of casualty, rank and job title mean nothing as everyone is trained with the same knowledge. At those times, it is amazing to see how everyone simply does what is in their power to do, wherever they happen to be when the casualty strikes. There is no complaining about anything being “not my job”, because we all want to get out of this alive.
Personally, I like the football version of teamwork. Yes, we are all specialized, but we also all have the same goal and I would expect anyone on my team to be willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if it’s not in their job description.