Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: The Importance of Working Together

Happy soccer team stacking hands on a football at playing ground before the game. Cheerful young male and female football players stacking hands together.

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You’ve probably seen the phrase “Teamwork makes the dream work” printed on office mugs and motivational posters. But what exactly does it mean and what does good teamwork look like?

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

The phrase “Teamwork makes the dream work” essentially means that dividing tasks and responsibilities among a team can lead to better outcomes than a single person doing the same task, says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University.

The saying was initially coined by American clergyman John C. Maxwell. Maxwell published an eponymous book in 2002, in which he wrote, “Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.” In his book, Maxwell discusses the importance of working together collaboratively and shares some principles for building a strong team.

The phrase caught on and has become popular over the years. In this article, we explore the benefits of teamwork, the characteristics of good teamwork, as well as some steps to help you be a good team player and build a strong team.

Why Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Below, Dr. Romanoff explains why teamwork is important and the benefits it can offer:

  • Improves efficiency and output: Teamwork is important because much more can be accomplished as part of a team than a single person working alone. Successful teams are much more efficient and effective at completing tasks than individuals.
  • Produces better solutions: Teamwork allows the opportunity for diverse perspectives to tackle problems and find solutions that are more resourceful and effective than one person’s input alone. When multiple people are contributing, more knowledge, viewpoints, and feedback are incorporated, helping teammates arrive at more holistic solutions.
  • Offers a larger pool of resources: Each member of the team can contribute their efforts, knowledge, abilities, and strengths to the task at hand. The team can tap into the resources each member provides to tackle new challenges.
  • Promotes growth and learning: When people work together, there is an opportunity for each member of the team to learn and grow, both personally and professionally.
  • Creates strong bonds among teammates: Collaborating on shared tasks, helping others, and working together helps teammates foster strong connections. People bond when they work together toward a common goal in an encouraging and supportive environment.
  • Fosters a feeling of belonging: Teamwork also taps into our human need for belonging to a community or group and feeling like we are working towards something that is bigger than ourselves.
  • Reduces stress: People tend to feel more supported when they’re part of a team. They often experience less perceived stress because they’re not facing the problem alone.

Characteristics of Good Teamwork

According to Dr. Romanoff, these are some of the characteristics of good teamwork: 

  • Shared goal: A successful team articulates and agrees on a common goal that has meaning to its members. Shared understanding of the goal the team is working toward is crucial so that everyone is on the same page and the team can operate as a cohesive unit.
  • Cooperation: It’s important for teammates to actively listen to one another, cooperate with each other, and help one other out when required. A collaborative approach leads to more efficient and effective output.
  • Respect: When people feel respected by their teammates, they are able to freely share ideas and opinions without fear of rejection or judgment. This level of safety sets the stage for greater commitment among teammates, originality, and novelty.
  • Trust: There is trust that each member will deliver on their role for the team and meet their commitments. Team members take their responsibilities seriously and commit to following through on behalf of the individual members but also for the collective group. Each member is also trusted with placing the team’s interests above their own.
  • Coordination: The team is well-organized so everyone is systematically and efficiently working together toward deadlines and shared goals. Effective communication and coordination are the bedrock of good teamwork.
  • Strong interpersonal relationships: There are strong relationships among teammates. Team members care about each other and relationships are deeper than just their roles in the team. For instance, there is knowledge and sharing about people’s personal lives, and interest in other’s talents, skills, and interests. Team members take the time to celebrate achievements or have social outings outside of work to get to know each other as people.
  • Effective conflict-resolution: Members of the team understand that conflict is inevitable but they are able to successfully manage and resolve them, by prioritizing the team’s goal over individual differences and conflicts. This means addressing issues among team members as they come up instead of pushing them under the rug, while also keeping differences among members in perspective so they don’t override the group’s mission.

How to Foster Good Teamwork

Dr. Romanoff shares some strategies that can help you foster good teamwork:

  • Define the goal: Define the mission and goal of the team. These can be co-constructed with your teammates, as team members are likely to have more buy-in when they have a role in choosing goals that are personally meaningful to them.
  • Regularly ask for and provide feedback: Checking in with team members is the best way to implement needed change. This doesn’t have to be a formal process. Instead, openly discussing how team members are feeling can be normalized as part of the team’s culture.
  • Maintain transparency: Be transparent, not just about the goal of the team but the goal of smaller tasks and mandates. This helps people understand how each job and agenda item is contributing to the overall mission of the organization.
  • Making learning a continuous priority: Offer trainings, reading material, and resources to team members. Bring in people to teach on new topics and host events where members can share new information and passions with their teammates.
  • Recognize accomplishments: Give team members kudos for a job well done and have their good work acknowledged by their peers and managers. 
  • Foster a culture of gratitude: It can be helpful to foster a culture of gratitude by having members consider what they are grateful for within the team or in their day, to help them reflect on what they appreciate in another.

How to Be a Good Team Player

If you’re wondering how to be a good team player, Dr. Romanoff has some suggestions that can help:

  • Commit to the goal: Commit to the group process and the team’s goal. 
  • Take ownership: Take your tasks and responsibilities seriously. Be accountable to yourself and your teammates. Be cognizant of how your actions impact the team.
  • Be flexible: Be flexible, open to change, and willing to take on new challenges or responsibilities to help your team.
  • Work with your peers, not against them: Don’t compete with your peers. Instead try to work together toward a common goal and help each other out.
  • Maintain a positive mindset: Be positive and optimistic. This mindset is contagious and will draw other team members towards you.
  • Stay true to your values: Have integrity and speak your mind to advocate for the greater good and values of the group, even if it means going against what other group members are saying.

If you’ve ever been part of a team that just clicked, you know that being part of a team can be engaging and gratifying. Whether it’s at home, at work, on a playground, or in a relationship, working together as part of a team offers several benefits.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Clark W. Teamwork: A multidisciplinary review. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2021;30(4):685-695. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2021.05.003

  2. Rosen MA, DiazGranados D, Dietz AS, et al. Teamwork in healthcare: Key discoveries enabling safer, high-quality care. Am Psychol. 2018;73(4):433-450. doi:10.1037/amp0000298

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.