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Functioning as a team

“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” - Casey Stengel

Teamwork is essential to project management. But the team setting is the place where personal and collective interests most often clash. Various initiatives have been used to strengthen team spirit, homing in on various key issues. The most helpful comparison is with the world of sports.

Is it possible to function well in a team without a background in team-based sports? There is no causal link. Flourishing in a team setting requires the kind of attitude that says, “What I’m doing here is making a difference”. Perhaps the least sporty among us have turned their back on competitive sports to pursue other interests. But whether you’re part of a reading club, sing in a choir, or direct plays, or sit on a school committee, or perhaps were a scout or girl guide when younger, the dynamic is the always same. We are social beings in essence.

Must we all be equal in a team? As far as the value of our contribution is concerned, yes. But our market value – determined according to the tenets of capitalism – may not all be the same. Can we still function as a team? Yes. In an ice hockey team, not everyone receives the same wage, but the top earner knows he cannot win on his own.

Can we improve our team spirit?

Team work can be learnt and becomes easier as we mature as people. Staying with our ice hockey example, whenever children start to learn the game, it is virtually impossible to drum the concept of ‘passing’ into their heads. They all just want to score. Over time, they realise they will win more often if they share the puck: they’ve grown in maturity; teamwork has become part of who they are. The best could even go on to play in the national side.

How can this be applied to our work?

In the workplace, we are still in the training stage. Each project becomes a match that we should win. Sometimes we need to accept that we will get time on the ice during practice but might be left on the bench during the real match. The aim is to win as a team, not get to play individually.

How can we still be fulfilled as individuals?

First, by tapping our own personal strengths. This is the first condition for the system to work.

Then we need to share this strength. In an ice hockey team, everyone knows who is best in defence, up front, the best at defending against a given player, and so forth.

Lastly, if we train with a win-win mentality, we will try to understand others before we ourselves are understood and will look to unlock synergy with others.[1]

Playing as a team means...

... having the world within our reach

... increasing our possibilities exponentially

... being able to face down the best and brightest

... knowing that we are not carrying the world on our shoulders

... excelling in our field

... maintaining a balanced life

... having a deep desire to accomplish great things with other people

Have a good match!

How about yourself? Do you have similar or different experiences? Please let me know, I'd be happy to discuss the related issues with you.

[1] See The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey

Artwork: Mélanie Bénard Tremblay, 2019, © Marakoudja.

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