Monday, March 3, 2014

Team Work

“Get ready to take aim.”  “We’ve got that country on the run.” “Bring their flag back!”  Great sounding battle cries that we enjoyed on Saturday night playing Military Bridge.  Yes, that’s right, Military Bridge!  No, we did not get dressed up in camouflage clothes, crawl through the mud or relieve ourselves behind enemy lines.  We were seated in a room with 62 other people playing a very civil card game, which consisted of 16 teams of 4.  Even in a simple card game, the importance of working with your team mates to maximize your potential struck me.  While I find that in the business world, most people think in terms of their own contributions, it is the contribution of a team effort that really elevates the outcome and the experience.

We begin teaching our children the importance of team work from the moment they engage in any sport, whether it is soccer, baseball / softball or basketball.  Each player brings to the team their specific strengths.  I know, from a parent’s point of view, we always want our child to play a certain position, but the truth is no player is good at every position.  When we go to work, we really work in groups or part of a larger organization, and whether we know it or not, the people that run the organization make sure to push us into the areas where our strengths are best utilized.  If I am managing a project, the people on the project team have to be able to complement each other’s abilities.  How about one of the greatest teams you can be a part of?  A marriage!  Two people have to work together to build a family, run a household and still have the time to enjoy each other.  As my wife so aptly puts it, “Because we are a team”.

Sometimes, I have worked with people that do not understand the value of a team…yes, everyone knows the saying, “There is no I in team”.  But, many people do not understand the value behind working together as a team.  Let’s take the military bridge event as an example.  One person has the idea to have the event (Debbie in this case).  A small group, or team, came together to make the event happen - Someone that understood the game and could teach it; someone to collect the names of the people coming; someone to help spread the word (market the event); and, people to setup the night.  I remember taking a project management seminar that included a movie called the “4 Hour House”, where the goal was to construct a house in 4 hours.  There were a group of people – architects, engineers, builders, etc., that took the time to plan out the event, each with their own teams to do the job.  The importance of the team work and following the plan worked so well, the house was built in a little over 2 hours.

Team work is a part of most aspects of our lives.  Unlike the game Solitaire, we do not live in seclusion if we strive to have a meaningful life, part of which is engaging with other people.  One of the greatest coaches, John Wooden, sums up the value of a team: “Each of us must make the effort to contribute to the best of our ability according to our individual talents. And then we put all the individual talents together for the highest good of the group. … Understanding that the good of the group comes first is fundamental to being a highly productive member of a team.”