Exceptional teamwork doesn’t just happen, it develops. The secret of truly exceptional teams is that they know how to develop in order to achieve outstanding performance and extraordinary results.

What do I mean by teamwork? It’s about multidisciplinary collaboration between professionals to produce the best possible environment for patient healthcare. Good communication and teamwork are critical to effectively running the NHS.

A team should practise and develop through team events, business simulations, workshops and training sessions

Top Australian sports teams have an acronym to describe the secret to effective teamwork: BHW - bloody hard work. To every top Australian sports person, it is this concept above all else that lies behind the disproportionate and continuing success of their national teams.

But hard work at what? In a business, it certainly doesn’t mean longer hours or more individual effort. We all know companies where the hours are punishing, where individuals work hard, but where teamwork is dreadful - to the detriment of the organisation as a whole. The same applies to the NHS.

Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified four areas in which BHW must be concentrated. If a team wants to be inspirational and successful, it must ensure four things.

First, that its members work hard at self awareness, so as to understand (and also be honest about) the strengths and weaknesses they contribute to the team effort. Only when individual members are aware of their limitations can they change their own contributions in order to improve the collective output.

Second, a team should practise and develop through team events, business simulations, workshops and training sessions. Herein lies the value of properly designed outdoor training. It should be a rehearsal for work and not some kind of stereotyped “bonding” session. When a team practises, it should practise the right things in the right ways, or it will not make perfect. Former England manager Terry Venables summed this up: “If you practise the wrong thing, and you do it for nine hours, you’re going to get brilliant at being rubbish.”

Third, a team must work hard to avoid “defensive routines” - in other words, those behaviours that blame failure on others. Individuals in a team will know if and when they have made a mistake, but an effective team takes responsibility as a whole and works to put right any errors along the way.

Finally, a team must work at developing its own processes for decision making, planning, communication and problem solving.

Every team is different, and will “play” in a different way to the next. There is no set formula. Without the team developing and owning these processes, there is no firm platform from which positive team behaviours can be built.

Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots American football team, sums teamwork up brilliantly: “It’s about buying into team goals that are greater than any individual goals or successes that you may have. That’s what this team is all about. That’s where it starts and pretty much, that’s where it ends.”

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