High Achieving Teamwork is Essential to Organizational Excellence
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– MARGARET MEADE
“I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”
– MIA HAMM
It is something of a myth … yet, albeit, not a total myth … the notion of the amazing and stratospherically gifted individual and leader who can almost singularly will and bring about achievement and great success in companies, social movements, political campaigns, philanthropies, and sports teams.
Now, for sure, great individuals initiate, inspire, direct, ennoble, and provide the ideas and genius; they offer and set examples with their personal sacrifice, courage, and strength.
And, of course … and we need be ever mindful and observant of this stark truth … among these types – those with such talent and gifts – are not only those who foment and drive the good, benevolent, and that which advances and improves society … but also those who incite malevolence, hatred, and that which weakens and endangers civilization.
Yet neither monumental good and creative accomplishment … nor massive injury and destruction … are the output and responsibility of one person – not even primarily so.
Winston Churchill, no less, a man of towering ego and self-confidence, fully understood and acknowledged this truth … even as he surely recognized what posterity would rightly and fully assert and acknowledge – that without him, England would have made peace with Nazi Germany in 1941.
In 1945, almost 10 years after the defeat of the Third Reich, Mr. Churchill said, “I have never accepted what many people have kindly said, namely that I inspired the Nation. It was the nation and the race dwelling around the globe that had the lion heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”
Yes, the lion was a team – a nation and an empire.
Great teams – at their best and most profound – move the world and make history … in the right way.
Great teams invent, heal, enlighten, educate, preserve peace, protect liberty; they plan and create and build; they make a world happier and more livable.
Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services believes in the importance of teamwork to the operations of a successful business; indeed, we know it is essential. We work to nurture and honor and reward teamwork in our organization.
In the exhibit and events industry, teamwork is at a premium – for it is an industry in which success is dependent on excellence in human cooperation in planning, timing, scheduling, logistics, building, dismantling, innovating, and accommodating.
Highly functioning teamwork is essential, whether installing and dismantling a single small exhibit, or delivering the general contracting for a multi-facility tradeshow.
What are the primary elements of winning teamwork?
What are the traits of great teams?
Like everything, and anything, varying are the answers – and opinions on the subject.
Since this is a Willwork forum – we will weigh in here with a Willwork response – one in which we present what we feel and recognize as those priority elements and traits.
Sharing a Common Goal
A team cannot long be a winning team unless every member of the team shares a common goal.
Yes, within a company, that goal must be shared by every employee – from the most junior to the most senior, from the most recent hire to the longest employed.
And this is why it is imperative that organizations clearly identify and fully articulate and highlight a primary goal for all its members – and emphasize the necessity of all buying in and committing to achieving that goal.
Before a company journey or corporate initiative commences, it needs to be clear to everyone on the team what is the end goal of the journey, of the initiative – for, remember, that if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
Willwork employees know where we are going; they know the end game.
Willwork has as a goal to be the number one exhibit and event company in America.
We aim to impart to every Willwork employee a desire and passion to contribute to a collective effort that outperforms every other company in our industry – and which exceeds every other company in our industry in the level of value and competitive advantage we deliver to clients.
Great Teams Sign On to Bold Adventures
All members of great teams need to share a goal – and the goal needs to be one that demands the undertaking and successful completion of a bold adventure to achieve.
Willwork – all of Willwork – has embarked on a bold adventure.
Great teams require strong leadership that inspires people to reach mightily for goals and to achieve standards that even … for many … both within and outside of an organization, may seem, early on, beyond the grasp of the team.
But great teams embrace the immensity of the challenge.
Achieving greatness requires answering a call to greatness.
Undertaking and chasing history – making history – reaching for what is, initially, at least, beyond our grasp is a foundation and essential to the greatness of our republic; it is in our societal DNA.
Following the Soviet Union launching, in 1957, the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth, and then, on April 12, 1961, putting the first man in space, the U.S. felt some serious unease and inferiority.
America would respond – not by catching up in the race to explore the cosmos, but by getting ahead.
On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy, in Rice Stadium, gave a speech to rally the American people behind, and build support for, the quest for the U.S. to be the first nation to put a human on the moon – a challenge he had issued in an address to congress not even four months prior.
Following excerpted is a famous passage from the speech at Rice Stadium:
“We choose to go to the Moon! …We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win … “
On July 20, 1969, the U.S. landed the first humans on the Moon when spaceflight Apollo 11, manned by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, set down on the lunar service. Neil Armstrong, and his famous walk, would take place six hours later.
Great teams are about a culture of, and commitment to, accountability. People need to hold themselves accountable – and help hold others accountable.
Eventually everything gets found out.
Accountability is rooted in the virtues of honesty, responsibility, and integrity.
When accountability is lacking there is permission and allowance for people to not do their job – and to assign blame to those who are not deserving of blame … and to find and create scapegoats. This it toxic conduct and injurious to teamwork and cooperation.
Everyone needs to do his job. Everyone needs to do her job.
Among the most successful and highest achieving leaders and team builders is Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama football team.
Since 2000, five teams for which Mr. Saban has served as head coach have won NCAA national championships: Louisiana State University (LSU) in 2003, and Alabama in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2016.
Mr. Saban cites as primary to his teams winning is their adhering to a philosophy and approach he calls “The Process” – which, when followed and adhered to properly, requires each player to disregard the scoreboard, and on every play do his job to the best of his ability.
Fundamental to the success of Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services – what we ask of all our employees – is for them to always do their jobs to the best of their ability.
Subvert Ego to the Good of the Team
This trait is kin to the one above.
You know, there are some phrases no matter how hackneyed and worn and seemingly trite, still convey helpful truth and wisdom – and which are instructive.
“There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’” is one of those phrases.
A natural human impulse is to want to be liked and appreciated – and to be complimented.
A natural human impulse is to want to get ahead.
These are impulses and desires that – when harnessed and applied – benefit team building and winning.
Yet, as well, these impulses are often married to the impulses of not giving credit to and acknowledging others, not acting on or listening to suggestions of others that benefit the team, abdicating and not taking responsibility, and stealing credit that is due others.
At Willwork, we aim to focus on getting things done, and to not get hung up on who gets the credit.
We embrace communal effort, and endeavor to identify and put together the right personnel for every assignment, and clearly define and delineate what is expected of each person. When you get this right, then you have fully prepared for success – and for people to feel invested in the process and the outcome.
When people feel invested in the process and outcome you head off and prevent a good amount of attitude and ego.
Everyone needs to pitch in – and in exercising subversion of ego to the good of the team, it is particularly important for organizational leadership to set the example.
If there is a job needed to be done in a company then no employee within the company is too important to do it.
Embedded in Willwork culture and operations is shared responsibility.
Contributing to this mindset and way of doing things is that many in Willwork management have long been with the company, and started with us as laborers who directly and in person worked with clients on show floor and meeting and event space, and were hands on in delivering service.
Winning Teams Have Low PDI
Among the traits of most exceptional and great teams is that they have a culture of what is called low Power-Distance Index, or PDI. Willwork is an environment of low PDI.
What is PDI? And why do successful teams manifest low, as opposed to high, PDI?
PDI is a term and index created by Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede. As described on the website of the Hofstede Center, “Power distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. It has to do with the fact that a society’s inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders.”
Countries vary widely on the PDI index. High PDI countries include Malaysia, Guatemala, Panama, the Philippines, and China. Low PDI countries include the U.S., Ireland, the UK, Sweden, and Canada.
While Dr. Hostede’s index applies to national societies, PDI can be looked at as an organizational index.
At the highest levels, winning teams across all sectors have low PDI. For example, in a low PDI company, management welcomes and considers, for possible implementation and action, the ideas, input, and perspective of all employees, no matter their level or job function.
At Willwork, senior management is accessible to everyone in the company. While we most certainly hold meetings designated for management or sales staff, we also hold department and company confabs that provide opportunity for broader employee input and participation.
Willwork seeks to foster camaraderie and engagement across the company, through business and management specific training and initiatives, and also through more fun and recreational events.
Please click here to be taken to post on our blog, published in early November of last year, which discusses the value and importance of engagement, including employee engagement.
Permission to Fail
People who work for great teams have permission to fail. People who work for Willwork have permission to fail.
An organization surely doesn’t want its members to pursue failure as a goal. And failure as a teacher is overrated.
But, as well, you can’t have an organizational culture in which fear of failure discourages daring, exuberance, and passion – and which trepidation holds off and prevents innovation.
On a team, there is much learning and improvement made possible, not necessarily from failure, but from the knowledge that failure, which results as byproduct of effort that is honest and intended to be productive, does not have to submarine a business initiative, or result in loss of a job, or ruining of a career.
“I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom,” reflected the French poet and novelist Anatole France.
Peter Drucker, among the most respected and esteemed business management minds in history, recognized the potential positive in failure. In his book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Mr. Drucker wrote that “unexpected failure” can be a source of innovative opportunity,
What to be on guard against, and of which not to be tolerant, is “institutional” failure – mistakes that become embedded in the operations of a group, and which weaken organizational structure and undermine broad-ranging processes and large scale projects.
Select the Right Players for the Job
You can’t win unless you have the right players. And the right players aren’t necessarily the best players.
Winning companies, are composed of players, of employees, who are smart, talented, and hardworking, sure – but these employees must also be those who believe in the corporate mission, are bought into and comfortable in the company culture, work cooperatively with one another … and help “elevate the game” of others in the unit.
How do companies find and bring on board the right players?
Back in early summer 2014, published in this space was a post which focused on and provided answers to that question. Here is an excerpt from the post:-
“In recruiting and hiring, Willwork is not constrained by convention, not afraid … and is open-minded and inspired by possibility. Like every company, we hope to find the perfect candidate – and we are always on the lookout for that person, one with all the right experience and skills – but we don’t spend an inordinate amount of time in that search.
“We do place a premium on identifying and training people who are competitive, problem solvers, hard workers, honest, loyal, who will work cooperatively with others, and who are receptive to teaching and coaching.
“Willwork also places top of mind that it is difficult to too highly estimate the importance of character and determination.”
Please click here to be taken to the complete post.
Great Teams Deliver the Goods
A team can do everything right – and it can manifest all the key traits of a great team – but it is not a great team unless it delivers the goods.
Steve Jobs put it this way: “Great Artists Ship.”
Mr. Jobs didn’t feel his Apple teams had won and done their job – no matter how brilliant the thinking and creativity and far along in development of a product – until the product was completed and shipped.
And remain aware that there are mediocre teams that practice great and look great in warmups – but aren’t able to put it together when the game, the real competition, begins.
Of course, teams need to have defined just what winning looks like, and what it means to have the good delivered. This is why clearly defined goals are so important.
And when victory is achieved, great teams don’t relax and become complacent.
They focus on continuing to win – and continuing to be great.