We are now in the back half of a year that has seen one of the world’s most challenging and unexpected time periods. Along the way, we have witnessed extraordinary acts — often by people who typically go overlooked. It is more evident than ever before that people make the difference, and working together leads to the best results.
Teamwork is a principle-based value, which is built upon a foundation of trust and a mindset that always puts the team first. Every high-performing team has a common purpose — a mission that sits far above each individual member. Yes, every player has a unique identity, personality and talent set, but these are secondary to the team itself.
To clarify these points, we can all learn a little something about teamwork from geese. As geese flap their wings, they create an uplift for the bird following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if one bird were to fly alone. When a goose falls out of formation, it feels a sudden drag and resistance and quickly gets back into position. In other words, if we share a common direction and sense of community, traveling upon the momentum of one another, we get to our destination more efficiently.
When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into formation, and another takes over point position. Its followers honk from behind, encouraging those up front to maintain their speed. So, depending upon each other, taking turns with difficult tasks and sharing leadership responsibility makes the work easier for all.
When a goose gets sick or wounded, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to the ground to help and protect it. They stay together until the ailing goose either can fly again or dies. Then, they catch up with the flock or join another. The greatest teams foster “we” over “me” every time and never pit people against one another. Rather, team members complement each other’s areas of strength and weakness, allowing the team to maximize the possibilities.
With these lessons in mind, there are four additional points to add to your teamwork playbook:
- To empower each team member to buy in and take ownership, it is extremely important to share information and provide feedback. Without factual and timely communications, a team can dissolve into weak, dependent groups that end up shifting responsibility to only those who are informed. When this happens, a handful of team members may be individually successful, but the team is unlikely to reach its goals.
- To get teams aligned, leaders must understand what motivates each member and be able to accurately assess their skills. This begins with listening and critical observation. Just like the geese, everyone will lead and follow at certain times. Respect other’s opinions and recommendations while cultivating a rational process for decision-making and problem-solving. Always gather facts and data to help define the problem.
- Eliminate internal competition. The greatest competitive advantages are those that are hardest to duplicate. Long-lasting commitment is built over time with trust and integrity. Look in the mirror: What kind of role model are you? Are you trustworthy and honest with your team? Do you learn from them — and they from you? Contributions and accountability breed quality and empowerment; everyone becomes responsible for the outcomes and an agent of change.
- Teams will fail. Shake it off. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” Top teams view mistakes as part of the learning process. They believe that, if there aren’t well intentioned mistakes along the way, then they aren’t taking enough risks. Playing it safe never leads to peak performance.