Defining Teamwork

Michael Brown M.D.

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with the CEO of Farmacy Food, Kwaku Osei, about teamwork in organizations. Everyone says they value teamwork, but too often, rewards and recognition focus too much on celebrating the individual. In many cases, it is not even clear what different organizations mean when they say they value teamwork. To promote better teamwork in his organization, we decided to define the principles of teamwork as we believe it should apply in his organization.

Teamwork at Farmacy Food

1. Recommend What is Right For Group

Receiving (or even making) recommendations that are in the group’s best interest, even if it is not in yours.

2. Admitting Your Limits

Quickly admitting when you make a mistake and getting help when you need it. Doing so may be personally embarrassing, but if you care about the shared mission, you can’t let personal embarrassment get in the way of you optimizing your contribution to the organization. (Of course, the organization and everyone in it has a role in helping you feel psychologically safe too).

3. Seeking feedback from people at all levels.

To receive feedback well, you need to be humble enough to know you do not have all of the answers and confident enough to not be threatened by what others, higher or lower in the hierarchy, think of your limitations. Also, seeking feedback from someone is a way of demonstrating respect for that individual.

4. As a leader

As a leader, you have the authority for determining what must be done and how it gets done, but you also need to appreciate how those you lead often may know more than you about the work they do. To make the best decisions, you must value the insights of those you lead.

5. As a follower

As a follower, you should have the courage to speak up in a way that brings your full authentic self to your work, but you also respect the authority that has to make decisions with which you might disagree. Once a decision is made, you own the decision as if it had been yours.

Soon, this framework will be used as part of orientation and company-wide training. It is still a work in process, so we welcome any feedback you might have.

Michael Brown, MD, MS, MCHM, CHCIO is a certified executive coach (Center For Executive Coaching) and Chief Medical Officer at Acesis, Inc. He was an instructor at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health for 8 years after graduating from their Masters in Healthcare Management program in 2007. For the 12 years prior to joining Acesis in 2014, Michael was the Chief Information Officer for Harvard University Health Services.