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It’s the beginning of my one of my favorite times of year…..football season!  I love college and pro football and over the next five months, I can often be found parked in front of the television watching this great American sport. In fact, it doesn’t really matter to me what game I’m watching because I pay attention to much more than the plays and game plans that are executed.  It’s the team dynamic that fascinates me and the players’ interaction with team mates and coaches.  I look for three things – how many solo superstars exist, how much interaction there is on the sidelines with fellow players and what happens when things go wrong. For me, these are the indicators of whether the team is really a team or a compilation of individual egos.  Former NBA all-star Michael Jordan pointed out that “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”  In other words, success requires teamwork.

This same success dynamic applies to our everyday lives.  All too often we think of teamwork primarily as it relates to sporting activities.  However, unless you are a monk or are in solitary confinement, you are already part of a team. Whether it is in a family, group of friends, volunteer organization, spiritual community, school, or work setting- teamwork is essential.  Unfortunately, unless you have been part of a sports team, you were probably not coached on how to work in a team.   Many of us learned the philosophy “every person for themselves”, especially in academic environments where our personal performance was the measure of success. It’s no wonder teamwork does not come easily to most of us, including me.

I expended a lot of time and energy in my personal and professional life trying to do things my way with little regard as to how this impacted my colleague and coworkers.  Although initially successful, that mindset didn’t foster long-term results because it wasn’t a team effort. I quickly realized that if I wanted different results in my life, I needed to become more of a team player across my personal and professional leadership roles.  With that epiphany, I found 3 keys to effective teamwork.

#1 Be open

I had to let go of the belief that I was more effective by myself than with others.  This meant my ego needed to take a backseat while my collaborative side took over. For example, early on in my management career, when an action was assigned to my team by my boss, I would frequently complete the work myself without even asking my team for help or input.  In my mind, I was still in “individual worker mode” and often forgot I had a team with whom I could collaborate.  I also thought I was doing my team a favor by just getting the work done without impacting the work they were currently doing.  And lastly, I thought I could complete the action more quickly myself.   Because I didn’t know how to be a team player, I added a lot of unnecessary stress and work to my life, not to mention the missed opportunity of pulling together as a group for a greater end result. The same applies with your personal life, be open to the thought that you are part of a larger team and not by yourself.

#2 Know the role

Just like in a sports team, every person has a role and a special talent they bring to the table.  In order for a team to be successful, each person needs to know their role in it.  Strong teams assess their desired outcomes and identify the key activities required to achieve them.   With this foundation, the team can choose or assign individuals with the best talents or skillsets to meet those needs.  You can do the same in your personal teams and you will be relieved to see how much comes off your plate!

#3 Act for the good of the many

This is where solo acts fail their teams.  These individuals are so focused on showcasing their talents and that they forget to perform for the good of the many.  Teams loaded with of “prima donna” superstar players can win one or two games; but winning the championship is unlikely.  Acting for the good of the team means making choices that are best for the group or the organization while letting go of personal agendas.  One word of caution – don’t confuse this with sacrificing your strengths because that will bring frustration for you and everyone around you.  What this means is that you can see that the good for the team is just as if more satisfying than your own desires.  Try this technique in your personal relationships and watch the peace and joy that comes with it.

I encourage you to step back and contemplate all of the teams that you’re on in life. Focus on being an active team player, understanding your role in the overall goal and doing whatever it takes for the group to succeed.  You will soon realize how much your success depends on solid teamwork!

Reflection Question: What kind of team player are you?  Would your team members agree?  What practice can you adopt to make teamwork a priority?

Call for input: If you have a question about leading, supervising or managing people, please send an email to info@peopleleadership.com and the answer to your question may be featured in one of my weekly blog posts or weekly People Leadership Insights.

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