A couple of days ago, I posted some unexpected scientific research about teams. By coincidence, I also received an infographic about teamwork from the UK-based insurance firm Unum. Here it is (with my comments following):


Anyway, you’ve probably heard most of these “teamwork” maxims in the past and, while there is no doubt some truth in them, real-life experience says that teams don’t always work that smoothly.

With that in mind, here are the main points of the infographic (which is really quite good), along with my “reality-based” translations:

1. Vision

“Individuals need a vision in order for a business to thrive, and a good team needs to have a collective vision or outcome they are working towards. It is said that if the members of the team can’t see how the vision will impact them then either the vision isn’t appropriate or the individual isn’t the right fit for the team.”

Translation: Drink the Kool-Aid or you’re off the team.

2. Support

“A team that is supportive of one another makes a business run more smoothly. Team members offering help to others can reduce stress and help to clear up the bottleneck of tasks that have built up.”

Translation: If you are competent, everyone who isn’t will dump their work on you.

3. Mutual Respect

“Members of a great business team know they must be aware of others and their feelings. Being considerate and respectful of other people is essential.”

Translation: Act as if your team members have earned your respect, even if they’re complete doofuses.

4. Communication

“A great team communicates effectively, sharing knowledge with and seeking it from others. Good communication allows individuals to understand what is happening with the business or project and fosters an environment of openness.”

Translation: Plan on spending at least one day a week in mind-bendingly boring status meetings.

5. Positivity

“A positive yet realistic outlook helps a team remain aware of what is possible and find ways to face and overcome obstacles. A good team doesn’t let one failure keep them down. Instead they’re already finding workarounds and focusing on positive changes.”

Translation: Try not to think about The Charge of the Light Brigade.

6. Bonded

“While professionalism is important, the best teams often realize that to work well together they must get to know one another a little better. A friendly atmosphere encourages a more positive working environment and can help individuals to collaborate more easily.”

Translation: Everything you say can and will be used against you.

7. Recognition

“Recognizing key achievements among team members or milestones for the whole team creates a sense of achievement and that the hard work is driving towards the vision.”

Translation: Thanks for saving the company $1 million; here’s your commemorative t-shirt.

8. Accountability

“A good team holds itself accountable for its results, good and bad. Often individuals on great business teams don’t just see themselves as accountable for their tasks but also for the overall outcome. Shared accountability and commitment often makes teams strive harder to achieve their goals.”

Translation: See “Support” above.

9. Diversity

“The best business teams have diversity in the form of skills and personalities. While there will be no doubt be a need for some consistency in terms of level of commitment and hard work, a diverse range of people allows for more creativity and innovation.”

Translation: If you’re Caucasian or Asian, you’ll fit right in. If you’re male.

10. Risk Takers

“Successful teams know that at times it’s necessary to take calculated risks and aren’t afraid of making changes and moving with developments. A great business team refuses to stagnate. Instead they are proactive.”

Translation: Don’t do anything without management approval.

11. Adaptability

“While it’s important for each member of the team to have their own defined roles, the best teams are made up of individuals who are willing to adapt and pick up something that might not be in their job description. The best team members take responsibility not only for their own tasks before the overall attainment of the goal.”

Translation: See “Support” above.

12. Leadership

“Strong leadership is vital in any team. A good leader will get the most from their team by ensuring individuals know their role, what is expected of them, and how their work impacts the business and wider team. The leader will share in the successes and failures of their team.”

Translation: If your team succeeds, it’s because of great leadership; if it fails, it’s because you screwed up.

13. Active Participants

“The most successful teams are made up of people who will take an active role in everything from meetings to projects and offering up new ideas. Each member of the team should feel comfortable and committed too thinking up creative solutions to problems and working cooperatively.”

Translation: Before you can get anything done, you’ll need to listen to 10 idiotic suggestions about how you should go about doing it.

14. Trust

“Most relationships are based on trust and that so different with business. However, it’s unlikely that trust will exist automatically and therefore it needs to be built over time. It’s the team leader’s duty to set the example and help cultivate an environment of trust through openness, communications, support and empowerment.”

Translation: Your job is about to be outsourced.

15. Defined Roles

“In a good business team each member of the team understands their role and responsibilities. Without defined roles team members are likely to become disillusioned and frustrated as they won’t have any autonomy or understanding of which tasks they are responsible for.”

Translation: It’s time to work on your resume.