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Teambuilding: The Most Rewarding Act Of Leadership
The experience of great teamwork is one of life’s greatest thrills. Unfortunately, it is also rare and fleeting. If you want to turn your own working group of individuals into a magnificent, all-conquering team, you need to guide them on a journey of 5 steps, from Unshared Certainty to Shared Uncertainty.
1. Unshared Certainty. At the first stage of teambuilding, the team are no more than a disparate group of individuals without any close links. Their main aim is to look after number one and they do this by seeking personal advantage in any situation. As a result, individuals rarely stick their necks out. Doing anything more risks failure and recrimination at the personal level. Unfortunately, in many organizations, we encourage safe working by expecting people to go it alone. In these type of organizations, there are no team rewards, only individual rewards; there are no team rules, only individual rules; and there is no team communication, only one-to-one communication. As a result, there is no risk and no teamwork.
"Pleasure usually takes the form of me and now; joy is us and always." (Marvin J. Ashton)
2. Loose Links. At the second stage of team development, the group start to find reasons for working together. They may do this initially because they see some personal advantage for themselves, for example, by working with others whom they like, or with others who have information they need, or who have skills that complement theirs. However, the minute they have nothing to gain from joint working, they are likely to quickly revert back to lone working, like a stretched elastic band snapping back to its untested state.
Lone working is often unwittingly encouraged by organizations who reward individuals and what they know far more than they reward teams and what they know. As David Yockelson says, “The biggest problem is that most companies have not grown up supporting team efforts or compensating for collecting and sharing. Just about every company has compensated the individual. So most employees have grown up thinking their knowledge is power.”
3. Shared Purpose. A breakthrough in teambuilding is achieved when the group start to share a purpose, mission, or goal which can only be realized by working together. This is nearly always a big goal and one that excites and motivates at an emotional level.
The story is told of an unannounced visit by John F. Kennedy to the space center at Cape Canaveral in the mid 1960’s. Kennedy toured the complex and met a man in overalls. “What do you do here?” he asked. The man replied, “I’m earning a living.” Kennedy nodded and moved on. He met another man in overalls and asked him the same question. “I clean away all the rubbish,” the man said. Kennedy smiled and strode on until he met another man in overalls and put the same question again. This time a big smile came across the face of the man who replied, “Mr President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”
4. Team First. At the fourth stage of teambuilding, the group now starts to put the team before themselves. This only happens when they see that they have far more to gain from working together than from working on their own. They start to share not just the goal and mission, but everything else: ideas, thoughts, plans, skills, knowledge, time, and even their feelings. When the group reach this stage, they are prepared to make personal sacrifices if the team wins out.
Writer John Adair quotes Mike Brearley, former England cricket captain, who was regularly called upon to ask his players to put aside personal glory for the sake of the team. “Cricket is a team game but as such it is unusual in being made up of intensely personal duels. Personal interest may conflict with the team. You may feel exhausted and yet have to bowl; you may be required to sacrifice your wicket going for quick runs. It is the captain’s job to coax the happy blend of self-interest and team-interest from his players.”
5. Shared Uncertainty. Once a team sees themselves as a distinct, cohesive unit with a huge pool of resources to call on and an exciting goal to strive for, they start to realize that they can achieve far more together than apart. That means they can move into areas that they never dared try before. They are prepared to go for the big prizes. In organizational terms, this means a high level of attention on the customer and their needs. The result is a remarkably high level of achievement and success.
Teambuilding is one of the most powerful forces of organizational life. It benefits the individual, the organization, and the customer. But it doesn’t just happen by itself or overnight. It takes guidance, patience, and commitment. But the results are well worth while.
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