Teamwork enacted: 3 Lessons I learned when I moved into a new team

5 years ago, my wife and I picked up and moved cross-country with a 6 week-old baby. We did so without a job secured on my end, but a stipend and graduate program for her. I left an organizational setting in which I was the senior staff member for the organization, based upon function and time. After bouncing around for a few months with little to nothing showing for myself, I found a home in an amazing organization.

While I had a lot of head knowledge of in regard to teamwork and had been on my share of sports teams over the year, it was this setting that taught me the true value of teamwork and collaboration in an organization.

Without going into great detail, it was on this team that I recognized the true functional blessing of the team. Following are the three primary lessons I learned.

First, a team works when people share a vision, that they are able to have a “say” in.  When people feel like they have a part in the vision they will work hard and try to be valuable to the team (and organization) – its just that easy!

Second, a team works when people share core values that serve to move the team. Contrary to a potential for group-think, when people share a core set of values that undergird the team (and the organization) they are able to work together with a shared foundation.

Third, a team works when the team members bring various talents and strengths to the table. When people bring differing experiences, insights, and functions to a team, it frees people up to live in their strengths rather than try to be all things.

So, what if you find yourself in a team where these three pieces are missing? Start out by asking questions. Find out if the team is willing to take a step back and redefine the purpose, values, and function. If not – RUN!

Things are happening!

We are in the process of growing the impact here at teamworkdoc! Yesterday we went live with our first article in the White Pages section of the site. Today our connect page went live, with other ways to connect to the teamwork family through Twitter and our new Facebook page. 

Come check out the new things that are happening and join the teamwork revolution! 

Teamwork Required: Expanding the Focus

Here at teamworkdoc.com, this has largely been a one-man show. How awkward, right? A website devoted to teamwork being run by a single individual. That is changing. Starting yesterday. Yesterday, the rollout for the change began – less of just me, more of us!

This website is all about how people work – together! The intention is to look at a part of the world that is often overlooked in our “me-centric” society and to shine the light on the strengths, shortcomings, and opportunities for the road ahead.

In order to accomplish this, new articles will be showing up targeting teamwork through the lens of sports, education, parenting, culture, military service, and a host of other avenues.

Again, this is about the “us” being more than the “me”. If you have suggestions or would like to participate as a guest writer, please contact me at todd@teamworkdoc.com.

Stay tuned as things grow!

Stop the Fighting. Start Collaborating!

Here in my current home state of Virginia, the primary elections are taking place today. For that reason, I thought it quite fitting to think about the failure of teamwork and collaboration that is occurring in the political realm today (uplifting isn’t it?).

In a piece posted on the Huffington Post written during the most recent government shutdown (October 2013), Robert C. Crosby makes the following statement, “[I]n order to succeed in today’s world there is a new skill needed. It is proving true in every sector of society, financial, educational, military and ecclesial. With sharpened skills of collaboration, you and your organization will be at a significant advantage. Without it, you will be limited. Ironically, at present, the 600 or so people we have elected to lead us in Washington are proving sorely deficient in what should be a primary characteristic of statesmen. Is there anyone left in Washington who knows how to or is willing to …Collaborate?” As a teamwork researcher and organizational consultant I very much appreciate this scathing rebuke. As a former political worker, I am embarrassed.

In the spirit of my proposition for increased collaboration, I have asked one of my dearest friends in the world and I man I often clash with over ideas, Rob Abb to join me in today’s post. Rob is a 2009 graduate of the political science program at the University of Michigan, a 2012 graduate of the Juris Doctorate program at Wake Forest University, and currently serves as an associate for a law firm in Detroit, MI. Rob is in many ways my younger brother and we share a passion for many topics, though admittedly we disagree on perspectives. We, however, have found the ability to have discussion and even find middle ground without spewing vitriol towards each other.

(Todd) So when it comes to the topic of collaboration, the situation is quite bleak. We have created a political landscape today in which fighting is the only answer. Political districts are gerrymandered so as to create safe seats, and as a result the need for conversation between ideologies seems to be diminished. We see politicians whose “war chests” are so big that they no longer answer to common sense, but only protect their personal interests. Our pundits also feed the “beast” as they hammer at anything that smacks of going against their status quo, as doing so drives up their ratings.

Folks, can we help stop this? Can we please talk to real people who have differing perspectives than ours, and do so calmly? Can we educate ourselves on ideas that don’t fit our own political framework? Can we stop demonizing the opposition? Could we actually seek to elect people who want to work for a more collaborative environment in politics and have proven themselves reliable in this regard? And frankly can we move to squash the power of the political parties and special interest groups in playing kingmakers through their monetary gifts, political favors, and advertising agendas and just let real people lead in collaboration?

I for one believe that it is possible for collaboration to return to politics (even within parties it seems rare anymore). I believe it starts with us turning down the volume on our TVs, radios, and internet sites when they demonize anything that doesn’t fit their agenda. Let’s return to the public square. Let’s encourage discourse (rather than squashing it). Please. It isn’t too late!

(Rob) First, let me start off by saying that I actually agree with most of what you just said. Our current political system is broken.  Our elected leaders no longer have any real incentive to put aside ideological differences, communicate and work together. In fact, for many of them, choosing to walk across the aisle and work with someone or support an idea from the “other party” is about the most dangerous thing they can do, from a political standpoint. Most House Republicans, for example, cannot even consider supporting anything with the President’s name on it. And if you think I’m exaggerating, go back and look up what many in the party said about Gov. Christie when he praised the President’s efforts and worked with him on something as controversial as disaster relief. You did not see the same reaction from Democrats about the President working with a Republican governor.

Where Todd and I really disagree is as to who is responsible for this mess.  While there is considerable blame to go around, it should not be equally divided.  The old “they’re all crooks” attack is far too simplistic. That is to say, although both parties are rife with corruption and incompetence, the policies and laws that created the systemic failures of our electoral system are not bipartisan. While Democrats (starting mostly with Bill Clinton) have learned how to play by the new rules and exploit our election laws as well as (and sometimes better than) Republicans, the underlying causes of systemic failure in our electoral system that have reduced our elections to simple ebay-eque bidding wars, continue to be advocated for and championed by conservatives and conservative ideology.

In the U.S. Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, over vehement objection from the 4 liberal justices, the 5 conservative members of the Court struck down some of the few remaining bastions of campaign finance regulation left in this country. The conservative majority continues to espouse the faulty belief that “money = speech” and uses that as justification to strike down campaign finance regulations every time.  In fact, ultraconservative Justice Thomas has gone so far as to even oppose the disclosure requirements – yes, that’s right, not only does he want to remove any and all contribution and spending limits, but he also wants to make sure that we have no idea who is donating the money.

It is also important to note that the concern here is not merely theoretical. The effects of these Court decisions are very real. For example, in the 2012 presidential campaign, outside groups not connected to any one candidate spent more than $1 billion, which nearly equaled the sum spent by outside groups in the previous 12 elections combined.

In response, Senator Reid recently lent his support to a constitutional amendment to empower Congress to regulate campaign fundraising without impediment from the courts.  The amendment was sponsored by two democrats and met with vitriol and fierce opposition from Sen. McConnell and the rest of the Republican Party. They continue to oppose any kind of campaign finance reform.  They also have been staunch opponents of several grass roots movements across the country that support establishing bipartisan commissions to be in charge of redistricting instead of the partisan process that exists in most states.

Let me conclude with one final example about how the free flow of money into politics is diametrically opposed to compromise and collaboration. In the Detroit bankruptcy, we actually saw some real bipartisan leadership in a crisis. The Republican Governor and leaders of the State Legislature on both sides pushed for a bipartisan “grand bargain” to help protect the Detroit Art Institute’s art and ease the cuts to retirees’ pensions.   In response, the Koch Brothers (through their political arm Americans for Prosperity, which has vowed to spend $125 million this election cycle) threatened to run ads against republican legislators who vote in favor of the appropriation before the August primary.

As long as conservatives keep money pouring into our elections (in staggering amounts) and continue to remove any real competition from our elections, U.S. politicians will never be able to collaborate.

(Todd) Obviously, we do disagree on some things, but we both are able to see some of the holes that continue to grow in the current environment. In many ways I believe that the constant media barrage, while intending to shine a light on the work of the government, has actually served to harm it at times. We see people pandering for media attention rather than seeking to actually lead. We see “listening tours”, committee meetings over asinine things with no real impact on America and constant posturing even on the floor of the two chambers (not just at the federal level, but also at the state) that is simply a “made for TV special”.

It’s time to stop. Let’s open up real communication, discuss ideas, disagree when necessary, but find some real positions that we can work toward for the betterment of this nation (and not simply for a small minority of people who have the money, power, media, or shock value to get governments attention)!

Why Teamwork is a Dirty Word in B-School

Bloomberg BusinessWeek published a story last Friday about teamwork. The only problem was that it wasn’t a piece that glorified the value of teamwork. Instead it was insight into the fact that American business school students hate teamwork.

This is a must read, not because the story is so well done (though it is), but it is a must read because it shows that business schools and business students seem to believe that real work is only based on their work as individuals. In life, we must learn to rely on one another. We must understand how to collaborate and connect.

Can we work to change this type of thinking, or is it too late?

Try. Fail. Try Again!

(Truth in blogging, the following was inspired by a recent failure. Yesterday along with my team at SynerVision Leadership Foundation, I attempted to integrate a new feature into our website as we prepare to launch. We figured out a lot, but it looked like a complete failure!)

If you have ever been part of the roll-out of any product or service, you certainly recognize the inherent failure of trying something new – it often flops. It might be better to classify that the first iteration of that new product or service flops. The product (whatever it may be) fails to actualize the image that you have held for it, its functioning is glitchy, and you have a hard time seeing people actually use it. With services it is often the unanswered question of how someone purchases it, redeems it, how do you market it, and make special deals on it.

If this is where we stopped, we would often have a whole list of failures that would make us want to give up. How many things are “perfect” on the first try? Quick answer – none of them (or as close to that as you can imagine)!

Why is it that we give up on the beauty of our dreams when failure happens? Is it the little voice sitting over us telling us “you’re not good enough for this to be a success”? Think about, Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up” and more famously (and more disputed – if he didn’t actually say it, he should have), “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

So stop it. Get over your feeling sorry. Get back out there and try again! ImageThe world is full of people who have failed countless more times than you and are now referred to in reverent tones for their success.  Reggie Jackson has the most strikeouts by any Major League Baseball hitter in history, but more importantly is known as Mr. October, a Hall of Famer, a man who hit over 500 home runs, made it to 14-All-Star games and won five World Series championships, along with two Silver Slugger Awards, the 1973 American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award, two World Series MVP Awards, and the 1977 Babe Ruth Award – yep, you can guess it, people don’t often talk about those strikeouts!

Go. Try. Fail. Come back, dust yourself off then try again! Not doing so is the only thing that would allow this learning to truly be failure!