Research consistently shows that most teams underperform. Simple things, not done correctly or at all, create frustration, waste, and inefficiency. Here’s a success story from this past Memorial Day weekend involving a team of seven - a “home project” – and some critical teamwork principles successfully executed.
Let’s set the stage. My wife and I have a special tradition of spending time with close friends at their Wisconsin lake house. Many of our visits include projects for all of us to participate in. The work usually goes fast with extra hands and the projects have created lasting memories. This year was no exception – we got to help build a storage shed on the lakefront. A team of seven (males and females), set out to clear and level a space in a wooded area – move hundreds of pounds of building materials down 78 steps to the lakefront – construct a wooden platform – and assemble a prefab shed on the platform. We succeeded!
Here are some simple teamwork principles reinforced during our weekend project:
- On the same page. We had a common goal - build a solid, safe, storage shed. We knew where and what we wanted to build; key process steps; jobs needing to be done; tools and materials available; and how we would measure success. We had clarity and focus!
- Energetic. We initiated our project at the beginning of the holiday weekend. Everyone had a good night’s sleep and healthy breakfast. Our team’s heads, hearts, and hands were rested and fueled for success. We had energy!
- Shared leadership. Obviously our hosts who own the lake house provided key leadership. But they shared leadership at different stages of the project with others. They even left for a short time to run another critical errand. We shared leadership and increased ownership!
- Helping hands. Everyone looked for small ways to help each other. Digging, chopping, carrying, lifting, measuring, cutting, assembling, and cleaning up were all more effective and efficient because there were multiple hands for each task. We unconditionally helped each other!
- Trust. We exposed our vulnerability to each other by openly admitting we did not know how to do some things and/or asking for help. Holding a wooden stake while someone else swings a sledge hammer is a true test of trust. Our actions showed we believed in each other!
- Opinions mattered. A number of times during the construction we actively solicited ideas and verbally brainstormed options. No one was critiqued or judged for their input. Ultimately we piggy-backed many ideas to get a better finished product. Everyone had a voice!
- Balance. We got fatigued – especially after clearing & leveling the site and carrying all the materials down the stairs. We also had to ‘redo’ several things. But, we kept our perspective and balance by reminding ourselves of the highs/successes when we hit lows/setbacks. We kept things in perspective!
- Celebration. We celebrated three major milestones (site preparation, platform building, and shed assembly) with a few moments of verbal recognition. At the end, everyone was personally thanked and we toasted the team’s ultimate success. We reinforced our accomplishments together!
Reflect back on teams in your organization that have and have not been successful. How would they compare against these principles from our successful weekend project? What impact would better teamwork have on engaging and sustaining high performance?