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Understanding Unity: What Makes Great Teams Work

Aren’t teams the best? If you’ve been a part of a team, you know that the people on it are part of the reason we get out of bed in the morning. The sports you watch at night or on the weekends are great examples of teams of people all looking out for each other. If they weren’t a good team, they wouldn’t have made it to the big leagues and landed on the screen in your living room. The camaraderie, the shared experiences, the highs and the lows… that’s why we tune in. That’s why we have favorites. It all comes down to watching these individuals (with their unique personalities, skills, and talents) act like a unit; to witnessing the synergy that can only be personified by a great team.

Then you may start to wonder… why isn’t your office or business like that? Companies market their team values to prospective employees. They refer to themselves as a team in business and staff meetings. And yet, they don’t act like a team. Let’s explore exactly what makes a successful team work by looking a little deeper at what makes teams tick.

Take yourself back to a simpler time. Let’s imagine that you’re 10 years old, and you really want to make the school baseball team. Any kid who played knows the most important part of the process was the tryout season. During this trial period, whether it was days or weeks, you got to know who else was on the team, how good they were, and if the experience would be fun. Nothing felt better than making the team.

After your name appeared on the list, you might have turned your attention to other things: fitting in was always important, as well as making sure you were good at your role. Nobody wanted to let the team down.

As you grew during the season, you wanted to be better, and so did everyone else. You wanted to be the best at your position, but you still wanted to have fun. You valued every minute with that team, even the hot sweaty bus rides and the hard losses, because they brought you closer together.

You even had some tough times when you acted out or got to passionate. Coach may have taken you aside and let you know that behavior was inappropriate, but he/she understood you cared about the team. Each year with that team probably got better and better.

Nothing was more important than the team.

Now bring yourself back to 2019 and let’s take some of these concepts into adulthood. As we get older, life gets more complex, and it does so quickly. The process of working as a team becomes more difficult because most people now have additional important investments and commitments – things they didn’t have to worry about when they were 10. Simply being part of the group in name isn't enough; there are other things at stake. So how can you capture the essence of teamwork, when adults have things like mortgages, kids, car payments, and who knows what else?

If you’re a job seeker…

During a job interview, do you consider who your future teammates will be, and do you get to meet those individuals prior to being hired? Do you get to see their skill sets, qualifications, and work style? How about how you will interact with these teammates on a daily basis? Often, the answer is “no,” so these are important questions to explore. Many job seekers get so fixated on winning the interview, they neglect what comes after: the reality of spending over 60% of your waking day with these people. Press your interviewers about these details and take every opportunity you can to explore the office space and dynamic. Ask if you can meet some of the individuals who will work in your department, and seek out company reviews that give an insider glimpse into culture.

If you’re a manager, director, or team leader…

Put a calculated, focused, and structured emphasis on team dynamic and team culture. Team makes decisions, team drives, team wins, team loses. When you function like this, you create unity, and unity is what makes teams great. When you watch high school and college sports, those teams care, sacrifice, and put it all on the line every night. Business teams rarely do that even when finance isn’t involved due to ego, status, and title. If you want a great team, break down the walls, and enable your staff to go beyond workers and become teammates.

If you want to make a great team, have the following questions in mind:

Will people want to work on my team for reasons other than the money they are currently making? What are those reasons, and how can you emphasize them?

How can I empower people to want to come to work?

How can I find ways to allow my team members to individualize their work and incentives while still maintaining a team dynamic?

How can I continue to be better every day, and inspire my team?

What are some experiences that are unique to my team members that make them want to be a part of something bigger or greater?

Who are the best teams? What makes them the best? Can I apply any of the same principles of that team to my team?

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