There’s No ‘I’ in Team
Teamwork describes the actions of a group of individuals who are driven by a common goal. Effective teamwork describes those actions which ultimately end in a successful outcome for the team. Whilst intentions may be genuine, not all teams practice effective teamwork skills, and their successes are often limited as a result. Throughout history however, there have been many highly functioning teams that have shown us what effective teamwork looks like. The Chicago Bulls won 6 championships in the 90’s, The Brisbane Lions won 3 consecutive premierships in the early 00’s, and Leicester City won the Premier League in 2015-16 with odds of 5000-1 at the start of the season. So, why did these teams experience such success? Keep reading…
Effective Teamwork Traits
The following list highlights our top 5 most effective teamwork traits to create a successful team environment. Teamwork of course is not exclusive to sport, but sport can provide great case studies from which to draw inspiration for other team environments, like the workplace. So, throughout the list below, we’ll be drawing some examples from the aforementioned teams as well a few others, to have a look at what drove them along the road to success.
Michael Jordan is regarded by many as the greatest basketball player of all time. He was a leader in his own right, leading by example through hard work and consistency. But Phil Jackson, the coach of the Chicago Bulls throughout their 90’s success, had the job of ensuring team cohesion. His ability to create an environment that was conducive to teamwork was a major contributing factor to the Bulls’ success. Phil Jackson also happens to be a big believer in the power of teamwork… An important consideration for all leaders. Leadership skills involve conflict resolution, communication, managing personalities, and clearly outlining expectations. So much of a team’s success relies on the effectiveness of it’s leaders, and so it is a crucial part of team success. After all, “the head wags the tail”.
Establishing a successful team culture is a crucial effective teamwork trait that cannot be overlooked. In the early 00’s, the Sydney Swans began creating a ‘The Bloods’ culture that effectively saw them win the AFL premiership in 2005, breaking a 72-year drought. They used a player-driven model, that focused on the values that were most important to the playing group. They highlighted character traits that they found to be most important, and created guidelines and expectations that would drive their future success. One particularly interesting point about the culture they created was a sense of accountability. Former player Luke Ablett describes this principle, stating that “you were answerable to your team-mates first and foremost”. The Swans continue to be a formidable force in AFL today, with their success proof that team culture is indeed an effective teamwork trait.
Leicester City made international headlines in 2016, finishing on top of the EPL ladder. And if you do a Google search for ‘Leicester City togetherness’, you’ll see this as being one of the top reasons cited for their victory. Effective teamwork happens when team members care. When the needs of your teammate are greater than your own. When the team environment is more like a closely knit family. This also breeds a team-first mentality that is crucial to success. Every action should be performed with the intention of bettering the team’s interests, never one’s own. It sounds easy, but it’s also easily lost under emotional duress. Zinedine Zidane, a champion of the game, was unable to control his emotions at such a crucial moment in the 2006 World Cup Final. His personal grievances with his opponent were, in that moment, seemingly more important than winning the World Cup for his team.
Your teammates trust that you’re going to play your role effectively, so that they can concentrate on doing the same. The leader, or coach, or manager, trusts that you’re going to do as you’ve been asked. To follow their instruction however, they too must have your trust. In the early 00’s the Brisbane Lions won 3 consecutive AFL premierships, and are often regarded as being one of the greatest teams to have played the game. Of the coach Leigh Matthews, 3-time premiership player Marcus Ashcroft stated that “He puts a lot of faith in people to do a job and he makes you want to do it.” Matthews trusted his players, and his players trusted him. This on-field trust saw the Lions become one of the greatest teams in AFL history. Effective teamwork requires trust.
5. Work Ethic
A story of both leadership and work ethic takes us back to our first example – The Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan was known for putting in hours of additional training away from compulsory team sessions and match-day. His rejection from his college team, and his reaction to that disappointment has often been a talking point to describe Jordan’s determination. But how did this determination, and supreme work ethic affect the team dynamic? Jordan led, the team followed. If arguably the best player of the current time is also working harder than the rest, how could any other player on the team accept less? Jordan inspired a work ethic amongst his teammates that grew into standard practice for the Chicago Bulls. Effective teamwork has always been a part of his recipe for success – “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan.
Effective teamwork is not an easy thing to create, nor maintain. It takes a group of like minded individuals, all working together to achieve a common goal. Personalities need to be managed, leaders need to create an environment conducive to teamwork and success. Everybody needs to buy in to the mission of the team for it to work. With all of the variables at play, and the pressure to succeed, there must be a strong work ethic driving all of the aforementioned effective teamwork traits. It’s also important to remember that these traits are not exclusive to the sporting arena, and can be applied to the work and business environment as well. So, be sure to apply them to your next team setting! Good luck on the road to success.