The mark of success is to be on a winning team. We celebrate collective achievements in sport, business and politics. When England’s lionesses brought home the EUFA cup, they became national heroes and temporarily lifted us out of the gloom of impending recession and depressing global news.
It’s human nature to desire acceptance and approval. This is backed up by a primaeval need to belong and fit it. The evolution of mankind depended on the ability to form tribes to protect the young. Predators could easily snack on those cast out from their communities. Opposable thumbs, talking a good argument and walking upright provided little protection for a solitary human.
Our ability to communicate, co-operate, collaborate and organise enabled us to climb to the top of the food chain and ultimately master the technologies that make life so much more comfortable and safe than that of our forebears.
Champion teams win
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And now we have such sophisticated technology and creature comforts at our command, it’s no longer essential to belong to a tribe and protect each other from wolves and bears. Our culture often places more value on a single talented person than on a cohesive team that has no standout star. But, in many areas of life, a champion team will beat a team of champions.
This is proven in a Harvard Business School study of the success rates of top heart surgeons. It reveals that their performance improved with practice and experience but only when they had a familiar team around them. Working within a bonded team of colleagues helps develop interactive routines that harness the unique talents of each team member. The stars only shine with the support of their colleagues.
Eyeball to eyeball
The benefits of social relationships and connections are obvious in both career and personal development. For many businesses, their biggest asset is their staff. People stay in jobs where their efforts are valued and they have a clear role within a team. It will be interesting to see how that dynamic is impacted now so many are working in isolation at home. Microsoft Teams meetings are not the same as being eyeball to eyeball in a meeting room or across an office.
Home life revolves around team effort. Neighbourhoods, schools, family, exercise and hobbies bring us together for health, wellbeing and fun. Multiculturalism redefines connection as we gather to share common interests rather than staying within the confines of culture, ethnicity or religion. Teams are no longer formed solely on the basis of colour or creed.
Trust is fundamental to a successful team. Sharing responsibilities and achieving common goals by using individual and complementary skills is key. If one person has an opposing agenda, failure or inefficiency is the outcome. Good leadership nurtures trust and rewards team effort. A rogue narcissist can disrupt the best-laid plans.
Many of the anxiety issues I deal with in my practice are about dissonance or conflict in relationships where, instead of teamwork in pursuit of a common purpose, there are power struggles, hidden or opposing agendas or personality clashes. A team is a group of two or more people with shared goals and problem-solving skills. Winning teams are those where intentions, beliefs and values are shared.
The core elements of good teamwork are:
Businesses spend a fortune on brand and corporate identity. They use mission statements to generate clarity, commitment and loyalty in their staff. Families often define themselves as clans with characteristics they share and relate to.
Teams work well with a competitive mindset and challenging goals. Knowing and meeting targets, reinforcing success, and being persistent is easier when you’re cheerleading each other and sharing responsibility for winning.
A good team dynamic requires understanding and respect. Conflict within a team can best be avoided with compassion and consideration for the feelings of others. Constructive criticism works when backed up with guidance and support. Teams break down if individual fears and insecurities are not resolved in a positive way.
Active listening, positive feedback and ‘open door’ management help individuals at whatever level within a team hierarchy to speak up, step up to responsibilities and strive to do their best. Parents know children need praise for being good and they also need encouragement to be good parents. Good team leaders inspire and motivate by talking to their team regularly and going down to the ‘shop floor’.
Good leadership ensures team members are managing the pressures of workload, and time constraints, and have a work-life balance. There is a duty of care to safeguard individual mental health and burnout is bad for business and morale. Fun and friendship help lighten the load.
Productivity and creativity are stifled by conflict. When teams work together to overcome disagreements and adversity, they become stronger.
There are so many cliches around this fundamental necessity. A success mindset and belief in the ability to win creates energy and focus on achieving goals and thriving.
In both work and personal life, we achieve contentment and wellbeing when we belong and fit it, feel secure and safe and share beliefs and values with those around us. The lone wolf is a lonely wolf. The close bonds created within teams make hard work easier and give meaning and purpose. Those priceless bonds are the winning formula for successful communities, families and businesses.