culture,  leadership,  team building

Teamwork: The Secret Sauce

The value of solid teams – and teamwork – cannot be overstated. As proof, I point you to the daring rescue of the Thai soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave. It took the effort, wisdom, and planning of over 1,000 volunteers working through the problem, devising a plan, teaching the kids, and tending to the complicated logistics of the seemingly impossible rescue effort. We celebrate the divers and the medical professionals – and should. But even the volunteers feeding the rescuers or driving the shuttles back and forth to the site were vital members of the team that brought these kids to safety.

During my career, I have had the opportunity to work on or observe many teams in action, some productive, some destructive.

Phil Jackson, former NBA player and coach, summed up the importance of teamwork  so well:

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”

What we do individually is rarely as effective and important as when we are working in collaboration with our team. We have all witnessed situations when the personal agenda of a team member works at cross purposes of the team’s mission. One member can destroy a productive team, and one member can motivate a team to become high-performing. That is the power of one – for good or for bad. We must never forget that on a team, all members are responsible for the team’s success. Adam Grant, in his book, Give and Take, calls it expedition behavior – putting the group’s goals and mission first. 

As a team moves forward, learns, grows, and, yes, struggles TOGETHER, success will be the logical outcome. What Ken Blanchard says is so true: “None of us is as smart as all of us.” Getting all of that smart out in the open means that all members of the team must be working together toward a common goal. But even when a team doesn’t achieve their goals, they are smarter, better because of the experience. As Thomas Edison reminded us: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

The team’s leader is key to a strong and productive team. One who doesn’t delegate and involve team members in the work robs the team of the opportunity to learn and succeed together. If you lead a team, remember to include your team in the planning, decision-making, task accomplishment, and celebration of your successes.  (And always celebrate.) Tell your team not just the WHAT, the HOW, and the WHEN of the task, but the WHY, too. Sometimes the WHY is obvious – like in the #ThaiCaveRescue. But when the purpose is less clear, it is the team leader’s job to make sure the entire team is clear on WHY they are gathered together.

My questions for you:  How are you contributing to the teams you are on? What can you do better as a team member or team leader?

At Leadership Bridges, we understand that teamwork is hard. If your team is struggling, or just needs a little help, contact us. We provide customized team building and coaching services that can help your team reach peak performance.