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The Magic of Teamwork

Sarah Mohammed Monday, January 22, 2024
The Magic of Teamwork

"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships." This famous statement from Michael Jordan, a renowned American basketball player and businessman, literally underlines the importance of teamwork in all areas in our lives.

There are things that a person can achieve alone but there are yet more wonderful things he can achieve when he works in a team utilizing collectively the skills of others in the team. We see the marvelous rewards of teamwork in our daily life in different areas. Sports like football, cricket, hockey, basketball, etc. are completely based on teamwork as the base for success. Imagine, the football legend Lionel Messi playing alone against a team – no doubt, Lionel Messi is a wonderful footballer, but he may not be able to do the magic alone if he is not supported by a team. Abby Wambach, six time winner of the U.S Soccer Athlete of the Year Award, once quoted “I have never scored a goal in my life without getting a pass from someone else.”

Business organizations work in a coordinated manner utilizing skills vested with its specialized departments such as management, technical, production, administration, marketing, legal & risk management, etc. To take a simple example from the fundamental unit in the society, the ‘Family’, the success of advancement and achievement of tasks by such small unit ‘Family’ also largely depends upon the teamwork between the family members. Father playing his role well, mother playing her role well and children playing their roles well, all in a coordinated manner towards a purpose.

1) Teamwork and its Advantages

‘Teamwork’, by definition, means collective effort by the members in a group where the group members pool their respective individual skills through efficient coordination to achieve a common purpose in the best manner possible. Thus, in simple words, ‘teamwork’ is pooling together of individual expertise and effectively coordinating them to achieve a common goal. In fact, it is logical that many brains are better than one. As key benefits, teamwork enables:

a) Pooling of Expertise, where individual expertise of each member is brought on one table and pooled for a common purpose.

b) Splitting of Workload, where the workload is split among the members enabling them to focus on their individual areas, work healthily and to maintain timeliness.

c) Better Problem Solving, because the purpose is analyzed from different perspectives by individual members and options for solution are brainstormed.

d) Unlock potentials for innovation and personal growth, where through listening and being listened each member will be able to understand perspectives of others leading to innovative ideas and personal growth.

2) Important Ingredients for a Good Teamwork

The three essential elements in the teamwork are the following:

a) The Team: A team with members having varied individual expertise appropriate for the purpose to be achieved is the foundation for a good teamwork. For instance, let us take a cricket team. To win a match which is the ‘purpose’ here, the team should have the expert batsmen, bowlers, fielders, wicket keeper and so on. Each expertise categories may have further super-specialized categories. Example, category ‘bowlers’ should have sub-categories of pace bowlers, medium pace bowlers, spinners, etc. The same applies with batsman category – such as super-specialized defenders, strikers, etc. All these expertise pooled together forms a balanced and competent ‘Team’.

Mother Teresa highlighted the importance of teaming-up for achieving tasks through her statement “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” Once when Phil Jackson, a renowned American basketball player and coach, was asked about the teamwork, he said “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”

b) The Purpose: The Team members should be driven towards a ‘Purpose’. The ‘purpose’ is the objective of the team for which the members work together to achieve as the end-result. For effective teamwork, each member of the team should be well aware of the ultimate purpose for which the team is constituted and the required contribution from his or her side in order to advance towards achieving the purpose.

There is a good tale linked with NASA that motivational speakers often use in their speeches. When John F Kennedy visited NASA for the first time in 1962, NASA was preparing to send man on to the Moon. While the President was touring the facility, he met a janitor who was carrying a broom down the hallway. The President asked the janitor what he did for NASA, to which the janitor replied, “I’m helping NASA to put a man on the moon.” In fact, he was aware of the purpose of NASA and was able to connect his work, whatever be its nature, with the ultimate end-result that NASA was aiming at, at that time. Whether or not this story is true, it remains as a favorite motivational story among many. Thus, for a good teamwork, each member should be able to contribute a ‘purpose’ driven work.

c) The Leadership: The most important element that determines the success of the teamwork is the leadership. A good leader will be able to advance visions into realities by attracting people and by binding them together as one pack. He comes with the right strategy to achieve the team purpose, effectively communicate with the team members, recognize and collaborate the expertise within the team members, review the work progress frequently and provide regular feedbacks to the members, care them, take responsibility and, above all, motivate and inspire the members to be together in the team and to get the best work out of them.

Once when Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, was asked about how a good leader should be, he said “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”

3) An Example

One of our school level projects was to come-up with a collection of three-dimensional models of famous monuments in India that reflects our country’s rich cultural heritage. All the models are to be on the same platform itself. The project involved enormous time and effort involving different multiple skills, such as planning, timekeeping, collecting information, drawing, modelling, painting, briefing to spectators, coordination, etc. As the focal point for this task, with the able support and guidance from the teachers:

a) We choose a team first. While choosing the team, we gave special attention to skills reasonably required for the task.

b) This was followed by the first meeting of the team where the task, its requirements and parameters were analyzed thoroughly. The list of monuments that are to be considered and the method of making the 3D models were brainstormed and agreed. In fact, different brilliant innovative ideas came-up making our meetings very productive. The task of the team was well briefed establishing a strong bondage between the task and the team members.

c) Next sub-task was to make an execution plan splitting the workload among the team members in order to utilize every skill vested with the team members. The work was divided very carefully – while painting was given to someone in the team who was exceptionally good at painting, task of collecting information was given to another who was good in general knowledge, and so on.

d) Through regular meetings, we analyzed individual sub-tasks of each team members, the problems and possible solutions.

e) It was a journey made in slow but steady pace that finally took us to come-up with 8 3D models of wonderful monuments from India beautifully fixed on to one platform and painted the best manner possible bringing good results. There is no doubt that it is the teamwork from all of us that contributed to the completion of this task.

As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." Let us all understand the magical result of coming together, keeping together and working together. Teamwork brings magical results.

Sarah Mohammed
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