Teamwork is an obvious statement to make about being a High Performance team – but do people & leaders really understand what it means?

For those who follow their sport and their sporting teams and individual sports people, we are making the move from summer sport to winter sport. Or if you are a close follower of northern hemisphere sport, it is the reverse. What we witness at this time of the year are the winners and losers of the sports which are just concluding; while at the same time, there is the mountainous conjecture over which teams will triumph come the end of the season just beginning. There will be many reasons given why a team was successful or not, or indeed will be successful in a few months time. One of the critical elements to not only success, or lack of, but also enduring success is TEAMWORK. Everyone talks about it, most in the end pay lip service to it. For those observers of sport such as business leaders, the lessons are a rich grab-bag of ingredients, if understood and applied correctly, constantly, and accurately measured, can unlock the recipe to high performance, i.e. being at the top of your game, over a long period of time, no matter what the external conditions. Here are a few of my tips for success –

To illustrate this concept of teamwork, I have borrowed a YouTube illusion – see below:

In order to produce an outcome, in this case the revolving circle of dots, what is really happening?

  1. A vision – a picture of what the final outcome is to be
  2. Selection – find the right combination and numbers of dots to deliver the outcome
  3. Role – give each dot a specific role
  4. Plan, prepare, preview – have each dot do its job at the precise moment it should
  5. Execute – be able to deliver the outcome without error

Now certainly human beings are not dots!

Consequently, emotions of anxiety, anger, frustration, tolerance and so on are factored into the production of the desired outcome.

There is also physical dimensions to be considered as well when we are talking of people and teamwork such as injury, sickness, feeling flat because of lack of sleep or other important events and people in one’s life occupy one’s energies and enthusiasm.

Such distractions occur regularly for all of us, but possibly the biggest distraction is that we do not know the ‘mental triggers’ that enable us to put distractions aside, and deal only in the moment or the specifics of the role or task at hand.

Mixed in the teamwork ideal, we have the personality dynamics that operate within every team – who likes or does not like others; cliques and silos; and some days you get along, other days you do not.

And of course to start at the beginning, does everyone agree, accept and are challenged by the vision – the picture of where the team is going and what it will achieve.

So what else do we need to add to understand what is teamwork?

  1. Role of team leader – the team leader must have a close knowledge of how everyone in his or her team ticks so that the leader can intervene at the right time in the right way with either an individual or groups of individuals. The team leader must also be able to create the right learning environment to constantly stimulate, challenge and inspire his or her team.
  2. Know each other – the team leader cannot be expected to be with everyone all the time and in every situation, so it is important that team members know each other very well too, so that they can quickly provide help, support, encouragement or a kick in the backside when the moments arise
  3. Maturity – every team takes time to evolve, but the longer it can stay together, or at least a strong core of people can stay together, then it can evolve into an environment of trust, honesty, self-regulation

So teamwork is an ideal concept for which to aim at making a reality. It does not just happen because you have a group of people who might be skilled, have great personalities and character and are motivated to achieve.

It is like the illusion portrays – a matter of understanding all the dots, and then joining them together.

And because we are dealing with human beings, the team leader recognises that because there is a wonderful sense of team and teamwork one day, there is no guarantee it will be there the next.

Teamwork is a forever changing element of high performing teams, and the astute leaders are the ones who recognise its power, and are totally vigilant on whether it is working to its optimum or not.


John Buchanan


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