During my athletic career I was a member of some pretty incredible teams either as a player or as a coach. On some we won great honors, recognition, tournaments and championships. On others we struggled and battled often coming up short in spite of our efforts.
Although the relevance is clear and obvious for athletic teams, the ability to work with others and to contribute to a team applies to all of us in every aspect of our lives. The question is not, Will I be a part of something where I must work with others? The question is, Will my involvement with others be successful?
Even as an individual endurance athlete, I am never alone. I have a team of supporters and I have complete trust in each of them, especially my coach.
In my experience with coaching and leading teams the MOST IMPORTANT key element for successful teams is TRUST. Trust must be developed before any other logistics, techniques or strategies. Success literally rises and falls on trust. I have also learned the hard way, that trust cannot be assumed. Regardless of whether others have trusted you implicitly in the past, you must re-earn that trust with each new group you work with or lead.
When trust was clearly earned and established on teams I led, we exceeded our expectations. When trust was not earned, I failed miserably to get my teams where I thought we could go.
It is crucial to not only get those on your team in the same boat with you, but to get them rowing in the same direction, with the same vision and towards the same outcome.
I love to kayak and raft on white water rapids. On one of my birthdays a group of us got together to do some whitewater rafting on our local Kaweah River below Sequoia National Park. The spring run-off was at its peak and the water was flowing so high and fast that the rafting outfit was not allowing any other guests on the river. But we were locals and we pleaded our case. Eventually they gave in and they got us set up to go.
At certain points the river was running at a class VI. Rapids are categorized in classes from easiest (class I) to unrunnable (class VI). A class VI rapid section is the most difficult and it is generally advised for even the most expert to avoid these sections. It requires great precaution, skill, teamwork and a lot of luck. In these sections it is not a matter of “if” you will flip over, but “when” you will flip over.
Before we approached the first class VI our guide began to explain just what to expect. He explained that they had a crew with safety lines set up ready to rescue each of us. He then proceeded to explain the high level of trust we would have to have in him and in each other to steer the boat and to get through this section of rapids.
Our adrenaline was high. We were all adventurous, we were all athletes, and we were all good teammates. We knew we could do this and we shared a common vision of a successful outcome. Once in to the gnarly twisting rapids, our guide yelled at the top of his lungs, “Right!” “Left!” “Right!” Left!” and we rowed accordingly with every ounce of our energy and with the commitment of soldiers going to battle. We got into an incredible rhythm and sync.
We trusted each other completely, we took the challenge head on, we followed the instructions of our leader implicitly and we came out on the other side of this section without flipping over! The guides who were lined up along the edge to rescue us, cheered and celebrated our victory in disbelief. We celebrated with high fives and hugs and our guide collapsed from exhaustion and enormous satisfaction.
It was an incredible example to me of the power of teamwork and trust.
Together we met a great challenge and together we beat the odds. We were only successful because of the level of trust manifested; we were in the same boat, rowing in the same direction and we shared the same vision of of a desired outcome.
No team on the court, on the field, in the boardroom, or in the home can be successful without a little teamwork and a whole lot of trust.
Here are a few more quotes I love regarding TEAMWORK:
If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
“Teamwork is what makes common people capable of uncommon results.”
~ Pat Summitt
“It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.”
~ John Wooden
“Every leader needs to remember that a healthy respect for authority takes time to develop. It’s like building trust. You don’t instantly have trust, it has to be earned.”
~ Mike Krzyzewski