Harness the Power of Teamwork

July 1 2012, By , No Comments

What do things like the Hoover Dam, defeating Nazis Germany, and Neil Armstrong stepping foot onto the moon all have in common?  The answer is none of them would have ever happened if it weren’t for the power of teamwork.

Teamwork is so important to the success of any human endeavor of any size or importance, yet there are teams of people who seem to not even know what the word means.  An internet search shows teamwork defined as a, “cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause.”

My experience, from the world of firefighting, confirms that firefighters would never be successful at saving lives and extinguishing fires if they didn’t put a huge value on teamwork.  I recall reading a “thank you” letter from a woman who had witnessed firefighters in action during a house fire in her neighborhood.  She wrote this letter to the fire chief after she had learned that firefighting teams from three different fire stations had responded to this emergency.

She wrote, “There was nothing but chaos going on in our neighborhood at that hour, but the firefighters were calm, professional and worked quickly.  I am in complete awe by the organization and flawless skills that the firefighters presented that morning… all of the crews showed up and immediately got to work as if they were from the same station and worked together every moment of every day.”

As a former fire service leader, I can appreciate what it takes to develop teams that are capable of functioning so effectively during such difficult situations.  Firefighting teams, like any “high performance” teams, are successful because they have what they need to succeed – whether it’s building a dam, fighting a war, putting a man on the moon, and yes, even saving lives and protecting property from destructive fires.

Teams need to have all of the necessary know how in order to succeed at accomplishing whatever it is that they do best, for example – man on the moon = rocket science.  Still, there are some non-technical principles necessary for teams to act like teams.

Broken down from the definition above, the ingredients for teamwork are:

  • Cooperative or coordinated effort
  • A group of persons acting together as a team
  • In the interests of a common cause

To have a cooperative and/or coordinated effort requires leadership.  A group of persons acting together as a team requires people – and to act in the interests of a common cause requires a desire to do so.  These stepping stones to teamwork can be simplified as:

LEADERSHIP + PEOPLE + DESIRE = TEAMWORK

 Team leaders must be aware that the culture of any team must embrace a common cause that inspires the proper desire, which should be rooted to its reason for being.   This can be achieved with the careful consideration and implementation of mission, vision, and values.   Because without a mission people will create their own agendas, without vision there is no destination, and without values to hold each other accountable – there is only chaos.

Even though your team may not be building a dam, saving the world from fascism, going to the moon, or even fighting a fire – by harnessing the power of teamwork, you may also realize the history making success that is possible for any human endeavor.

About the Author:

Tom Pandola is a Leadership Trainer and Consultant delivering real word leadership principles to individuals, business teams and organizations. After 25 years with the LAFD and serving as a captain and battalion chief, Tom moved on to business leadership positions and discovered how the same principles that allowed him to successfully lead others to navigate the dangers and challenges of firefighting and rescue operations, also produces success in everyday business.

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