TEAMWORK is the new buzzword in the global workplace.

Ask the business gurus and they will say it is an idea whose time has come.

Just giving out team hats and shirts does not make a team gel, but having the right understanding of teamwork does. All too often, people think throwing a bunch of people together and calling them a team will get better results.

Usually what happens is that the dedicated hard workers end up doing more work and the slackers get to do less.

Teamwork can be a tool of change.

But no matter what the philosophies or reasons for using teamwork, before shifting to a team process, you must consider:

* First, what is the role or function of the individual in any team?

* Second, what is the role or function of the team?

* Third, what is the process that will be used to merge these two together to achieve success for the individual, the team and the organisation?

As you can see, the function of both the individual and the team is critical.

Individuals have a self-image and self-concept that contributes a great deal to their performance, self-worth and success. This self-concept and self-image become the most critical elements of their psyche, often determining their further developing attitudes about life, themselves, their roles and their future.

A team is made up of individuals with individual self-concepts and self-images. The team therefore becomes a composite of the accumulated self-issues of the team members.

What does this mean in terms of team performance and outcomes?

Every individual performs consistently with his self-image. If a salesman thinks he is a $100,000-a-month producer, that's around where his monthly sales will range. The range can be anywhere from $85,000 to $115,000 a month - usually no better or worse than their average.

This average is a composite of his self-worth, self-image and self-concept. There is no way an individual can achieve consistent greater results than what he thinks he is capable of producing. The same holds true for any team. There is a "team" self-image, self-concept and self-worth. Its results and approach to opportunities and problems will be consistent with these "team" self-fulfilling attitudes.

Achieving consistently better results with the individual salesman requires a change in his thinking, not changes in territories, prices, products, quotas, and so on. And yet most managers are frustrated with the lack of improvement when their focus is on these outside issues.

Achieving better results with the team requires the same strategies as with individuals. The "team" must feel worthwhile; members of the team must feel good about themselves as a team, their mission and role.

The job of the team leader and/or manager is to build the self-concept and self-image of the team. This is no easy task when you consider that the team may be made up of multiple "self-images," some positive and some negative.

Here is what you can do to manage a diverse team:

1. Accurately assess the qualities of each team member in advance.

2. Ask yourself if the team's objective is too big for an individual's self-concept?

3. Ask yourself if an individual functions well in a group environment?

4. Accurately describe the role, objectives, challenges and opportunities to the team.

5. Insist on full ownership in the outcome by each member. Make it a "no-exit" team.

6. Foster an environment of trust and respect before you attempt to tackle a difficult objective.

7. Accept personality, perception, attitude and philosophy differences.

8. Keep your focus on the "team" uppermost, not on individual stars.

9. Create a safe environment that is free of judgement and criticism.

10. Eliminate hidden agendas.

11. Encourage self-disclosure.

12. Accept conflict as normal in any team process.

When you are in charge of a team, remember that every team has unique qualities that contribute to its success or failure. As such, conflict will be a natural by-product of any team dynamics. How these conflicts are managed will determine the ultimate success of the team.