The event was a barbecue. The location: a beach way off the beaten path on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, part of the Virgin Islands. It’s not easy to get to Neltjeberg Beach and shouldn’t be attempted without a four-wheel drive vehicle to navigate a bumpy dirt road that leads towards the secluded stretch of sand.
Once you’re there the effort is immediately worthwhile as tranquil turquoise water and a beautiful sandy shoreline, laced with coconut trees, come into view. Venture there on a weekday and you might have the entire pristine beach to yourself.
So what does a barbecue and this idyllic spot have to do with leadership and team building? There were about sixteen friends who’d decided to have the day out and the only way to pull it off—especially at such a remote spot—was for us all to pull together. Everyone had to contribute something: from carrying the grill to the beach, to taking a hand at cooking, to bringing the burgers (Kobe and veggie), hot dogs, vegetables, drinks, and all the accoutrements required for a first class beach barbecue.
The contribution of each individual working together as a team delivered something it would have been impossible for one person alone to make happen. And the spirit of togetherness created by the joint effort made it all the more enjoyable and successful.
It’s the same within organizations. There are multiple benefits when workers collaborate and cooperate in teams. The talent and performance of one person only gets you so far. As Michael Jordan is credited as saying, “Talent wins games but only teamwork wins championships.”
But many companies fall short when it comes to developing championship-winning teams in their organizations. According to a Queens University of Charlotte report:
- While nearly three of four employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”
- 39% of surveyed employees say people in their organization don’t collaborate enough.
- Only 27% of employees get communication training
- And a mere 18% get communication evaluation at performance reviews.
These are the kinds of numbers that should concern corporate leaders who should also take into account the kinds of benefits delivered by a thriving culture of teamwork:
When people have the opportunity to work together in a tightknit group there’s evidence of reduced emotional exhaustion and burnout and an increase in professional accomplishment according to one recent study published in Human Resources For Health. It’s something my team and I have witnessed firsthand in our work as culture change strategists at companies across the country.
What I’ve also experienced is that companies that build effective teams see an improvement in trust…in each other and in the company. The opportunity to interact and brainstorm leads to a better understanding of each other’s contributions and value.
Trust is all-important. Research by renowned neuroscientist Paul J. Zak and his team found that in comparison with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:
- 106% more energy
- 76% more engagement
- 74% less stress
- 70% more aligned with company purpose
- 66% closer to their colleagues
- 50% more productive
- 41% greater sense of accomplishment
- 40% less burnout.
The net result of all these statistics: 88% more said they would recommend their company as a place to work.
When you think about it, it makes total sense. Solid teamwork enhances performance and productivity. Team members bring their unique skills, knowledge, talent, and perspectives to the table and when combined it means that tasks are accomplished faster, more effectively and to a higher caliber than one person by himself can achieve. The variety provides multiple points of input and the team’s joint effort benefits. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts!
This is also where diversity is a proven winner. Studies have shown that diverse groups are more creative and perform better by up to 35% compared to non-diverse units.
Team members working together towards a common goal can teach each other. This cooperation is a perfect opportunity for new employees to learn from their more established colleagues and can begin with the onboarding process. On the other hand, younger team members can shake up the status quo and educate their older workmates introducing newer, out-of-the-box strategies. It’s a two-way street.
One of the most effective techniques in our corporate training across all industries is to split participants into groups. Inevitably they later comment on how much they learned through interacting with their peers.
Can you innovate by yourself? Certainly. But in a group dynamic with contributions from people with different experiences and viewpoints the chances of sparking breakthroughs is greatly increased. Individual intelligence is magnified through collaboration.
I like the way Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, expresses it: “Most people think success comes from surrounding yourself with others that are like you. But true success and breakthrough innovation involves discomfort. Discomfort pushes you to grow. This is where difference of experience, opinion, and perspective come in. Diversity is a well-documented pathway to unlocking new opportunities, overcoming new challenges, and gaining new insights.”
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. You’ve heard the saying, but what’s left unsaid is that it’s easier for a united group of people to tackle adversity than it is for a single individual. A united team can lean on each other and know that they’re not alone. They can inspire and motivate each other. They can more readily overcome any setbacks or failures because they’re in it together.
Or to quote the motto of The Three Musketeers, in the immensely popular Alexandre Dumas novel of that name: “One for all and all for one.” It’s especially important in times of crisis or sudden corporate change when team members can trust and support each other and adapt to new circumstances.
Teamwork is an essential part of life. Human beings thrive and do their best work when they interact with each other. No one can go it alone whether setting up a barbecue on a remote beach or undertaking a new company initiative.
Written by Jason Richmond.
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