Everyone knows teamwork is an important part of any successful business. But there is a big difference between a group of people working together and a team that functions effectively.

Putting a random group of people in a room and saying “You’re a team” is not enough. True teamwork requires time, practice, planning, coordination…and plenty of hydration! Sure, sometimes great teams just happen accidentally, but more often they are the result of some very focused efforts.

If you want to see true teamwork in action, watch a two-person juggling act. There are few activities where you are forced to count on your partner more than, say, throwing chain saws to each other. Do the wrong thing or send the wrong signal and things come crashing noisily to the ground… or worse.

When two jugglers are working well as a team—when they’re communicating and cooperating and each is filling his or her role perfectly—a rhythm develops. Each one thrives on the other’s good work and compensates for the other’s mistakes. This give and take—complete with sharp knives flying through the air—is like a company’s team firing on all cylinders.

Effective teamwork, while it is essential, is not easy. But few things in business are more exciting than watching a team work together smoothly, constructively and creatively, flawlessly juggling all of their tasks. Following are the six teamwork secrets of an award-winning juggling duo. Use these guidelines so you and your team can reach new heights of success.

1. Set Goals…and Share Them

Teams need to know where they’re headed. Make sure every team member is actively involved in planning the team’s objective, thus encouraging a sense of ownership in the project. A clearly stated objective gives the team members confidence that they are moving in the right direction and allows the team to assess its progress along the way. If your entire team doesn’t know the goal and the plan for getting there, you’ll just be throwing things into the air and hoping for the best!

2. Value the Individual

As the saying goes, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ ” In business, nothing could be further from the truth, because it is the sum of all the individuals—all the I’s—that makes a great team.

For a team to achieve optimal results, each member must focus on his or her respective strengths. If team members only focus on the things they have in common (or on what they can all do well), instead of on the things that make them individuals, they seriously limit themselves. Often it is an individual’s unique perspective or different approach to solving a problem that allows the whole team to move forward. When the I’s join their individual strengths, the team wins.

3. Know Each Person’s Contribution

One reason teams generally accomplish more than an individual is that there are multiple minds working toward one goal. But what if you have one team member who doesn’t seem to contribute much or who isn’t as skilled in the task you need to accomplish? While that may not seem fair, everyone must understand that not all team members need to contribute equally to be valuable.

Also, contributions do not all happen at the same time. All it takes is one idea, one thought, one task—something that person does that no one else was going to do—and that person can become as important as anyone else on the team.

4. Communicate Often

Teamwork without communication is like a juggler without balls (pardon the expression!). When a project is underway, constant communication is the only way to know what’s been done, what still needs to happen and who needs help in fulfilling their obligations to the team.

Poor communication can sabotage the team’s best efforts, leaving people feeling frustrated, helpless, indignant, overlooked and ineffective. Always communicate with your team members, and remember that in a group setting, there is no such thing as too much communication.

5. Delegate Appropriately

We all have strengths and weaknesses. One juggler can keep ten objects aloft while the other excels with three flaming torches. One person might be terrific speaking in front of people and another might be much better suited doing research behind the scenes.

When it comes to teamwork, you need to pinpoint your own strengths and weaknesses and let your teammates know where you can excel. Knowing this information about every team member early in the process will help you avoid delegating tasks blindly and will ensure that each person is comfortable in his or her role.

6. Learn from Mistakes

Mistakes are something jugglers know a lot about. When learning a new skill, a juggler can make literally hundreds of mistakes in an hour. But with every mistake a new learning opportunity arises. That’s why a team must be ready to make mistakes…and know how to make the most of them. When an error does occur, pay attention to it and do everything possible to not repeat it in the future. When you acknowledge mistakes rather than try to hide them, you will see new avenues to pursue and new opportunities for improvement.

Build Your Dream Team Today

Teamwork is crucial to accomplish almost any task, yet it is often misunderstood. And while most people will initially grumble about being put on a “committee,” when it comes right down to it, those same people often reveal that it’s a lot more fun to work with others on a project than alone.

Even though teamwork takes work and isn’t always easy, it is worth the effort and the process can be a tremendous learning experience. When giving it a try, start out slow. Don’t begin with three chain saws—throw the bean bags instead.

Professional jugglers JON WEE and OWEN MORSE have been
awarded five Guinness Book World Records and the gold medal
at the International Jugglers Competition. Today, they coach
people to create balance in their work and personal lives.