The truth about teamwork

“Top performers are not enough” according to Mike Wagner in a post that points squarely at teamwork. The comments at the bottom of the post point out the trouble with teamwork: it rarely exists despite our constant lip flapping.

Patti Digh writes “…Ours is one of the most individualistic cultures on earth – we have much to learn from more collectivist cultures about teamwork, ” but Mary Schmidt really nails it with “It’s been my experience that the more a company talks about something – teamwork, ethics, quality – the less they actually believe it/have it. “

While others say teamwork is a myth, Lucia Mancuso writes “The whole theory of ‘the team being as strong as the weakest link’ drives me insane.” She sounds like she’s been the victim of too many weakest links in a system that sees teamwork as a way to keep the hangers on hanging on, which is another form of denial.

Both situations are sad. Companies that talk of teamwork but don’t actually support it, are lying to themselves and their employees. And if they aren’t truthful about something simple like that, you have to wonder what else they’ll lie about. And in Lucia’s case, her employers aren’t getting the most out of the team because she’s been burned before. Fortunately for her, she’s self-employed and gets to make the rules.

The truth about teamwork lies somewhere in the middle of that spectrum: While there’s no I in team, I am the one who has to take the first step. No organization can create teamwork: individuals create teamwork.

I used to be like Lucia; I didn’t like teams. I liked doing it myself. Then, about six years ago I completed a rather in-depth strengths a styles assessment and realized the root of my teamwork issues. I was the type of person who wanted to get moving, do something, don’t stand around waiting for things like facts and policies and procedures. I thrived in an environment that promoted “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission.” The problem was that I needed someone alongside me to slow things down, sweat the details and build the systems. I needed a detail oriented person to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. I needed someone to be the social butterfly that keeps the team together in tough times and celebrates in good times.

I needed a team. And they needed me. Once I learned a little humility – something the sports superstars Mike writes about don’t understand – the truth about teamwork became clear to me.
It was an amazing realization that has allowed me to appreciate others more, produce more incredible work and enjoy my time on this Earth a whole lot more.

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5 Responses to The truth about teamwork

  1. Lucia says:

    >h Mark… What can I say? Truth be told – I don’t think any of my employees would say I wasn’t a team player… I am.. I just refuse to use the term (even though every once and I while you may hear me scream out “Goooooo Team”) but that is about it.I merit my emplyees on a scale of sooo many different things, and I guess some may call it teamwork… if I had to call it anything, I’d call it PASSION (you know: for the love of the game”). I’ve never been burned by the teamwork gig, I just always strived to be my best at everything I do and I am that person who crosses the t’s and dots the i’s and tries to keep everyone in good spirits. I believe in loving what you do and whenever you do anything … you should do it to your best. I think when that happens everything falls into place.Maybe it is not so much the theory of teamwork that bothers me… it is the way everyone uses it out of context to achieve an illusion of teamwork – and that is weak to me!!!

  2. Mark true says:

    >Thanks for the reply, Lucia. I figured, like the other commenters on Mike’s post, you were more disappointed with teamwork when it’s an allusion than the concept itself. That’s often the case when brands fall short in the performance department. We usually think in terms of customer response when, in fact, employee response to false brands can be the most devasting, in my opinion. And, if you’re striving to be your best at everything you do, I’m sure your helping weaker members of the team get strong to, and it just doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. It’s just the right thing to do. It’s leadership.

  3. Lucia says:

    >Mark… I agree with you on that…”teamwork disappoints me when anything falls short in the performance department.” I am definitely disappointed when I see the illusion of teamwork, mostly because… when used correctly it is such a powerful tool and in my opinion it is like building blocks… if the first piece isn’t right – the whole structure will fall (eventually).So you’re absolutely right… leadership is the best thing you can do, I believe people want leaders. I once worked for a company where the products were so great and the leader was such a fabulous person but he couldn’t lead, he was afraid to lead, and everything was falling apart and as a junior at the time, I went to him and said, “Lead us, you have it in you… we all want a leader… Please, Lead us” (and more words then that) and from that moment on – he did and it was amazing to see the difference in moral, productivity etc.When I think of leadership I always think of the quarterback in football (I don’t follow football or even understand it) but I understand that… the person everyone looks to for the answer, the energy, the strength, and the approval. They can make a difference to that weak link… I just don’t believe that the team is as strong as that weak person, especially since while they are getting stronger it is up to the team to make up for their shortcomings and the leader to be patient in helping them grow.So many thoughts about teamwork… I could write a book I tell you. However, you seem like you take the true meaning of it and apply it to your work, which is excellent. I think I do as well (I hope); I just don’t call it teamwork.I guess I’m just afraid that those people (like myself) that have had bad experiences with it will look at the word negatively when it should be positive.I enjoy your blog by the way… branding is so fascinating!

  4. Mark true says:

    >Lucia:Thanks for the conversation, the complement and story about the time YOU lead by encouraging the leader. That’s awesome.I think Mary said it best on Mike’s blog, when she said (paraphrase)if you’re talking about it, you’re probably not doing it. It sounds like you lead the team without making a big deal of it. Way to go! To tie it back to branding, it sounds like quiet leadership is one of your brand attributes. -MT

  5. Mark true says:

    >I did it again… compliment… Mary’s going to think I can’t spell that word!

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