“Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” -SEAL Team Saying.
We have always known that teams could do more than the same number of separate individuals.
“If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Working as a team was one of the first steps in warfare. You could watch each other’s back while increasing the effect of concentrated weapons.
The industrial revolution scaled up teams to a massive scale, allowing specialization.
We thought we knew all about teams.
Then Katzenback and Smith wrote a book called The Wisdom of Teams, where they added a whole new dimension: High Performance teams.
They showed the progression of teams from groups of individuals, to having joint goals, to having a common approach. They then defined High Performance Teams as teams that also care about one another and actually care about one another’s personal growth. They have a high level of mutual responsibility.
The High Performance Team exhibits a step function in performance.
Here’s a summary of their book, from Robert Youker of ASAPM:
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I have been on many teams, some were truly high performance, while others were at the opposite end. The differences were obvious.
First, the high performance teams had a very clear mission. There was a reason for what they were doing and the mission and vision were communicated clearly and often. [Remember, “Vision leaks.” -Bill Hybels]
Second, the teams cared about the personal growth of each individual.
My first true high performing team was a small detachment in SouthEast Asia, flying reconnaissance missions over enemy territory. Despite having the worst airplanes and the most inexperienced pilots, we consistently performed more than 100% of our assigned missions, while the fully equipped squadrons with the experienced pilots could not get above 80%.
The difference? We not only knew the mission, but we cared about the personal growth of each individual. When I first arrived, as I stepped off the airplane, I was greeted by the Detachment Commander and a Major. The Commander’s first words were, “Welcome, this gentleman [the Major] will be your instructor pilot until you become an Aircraft Commander.”
This was music to my ears. The most a young Second Lieutenant, right out of pilot training, could hope was to fly his last combat flight as his first-and-only Pilot-in-Command flight. By dedicating an instructor to me, I would become an Aircraft Command in only four months and spend over half of my combat missions while in command.
I would follow that Commander anywhere. And, it only took one sentence.
Third, the teams cared about the welfare of one another. You do things for one another when you care about one another. When someone cares for you and shows it by doing things for you that they do not have to do, trust builds up.
When teams have a high level of trust, they are not afraid to try new things, to take new risks. They are willing to do extra for the team. Everyone wins.
There are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren’t willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. The funny thing is, in the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only makes individual goals more difficult to achieve. One thing I believe to the fullest is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves. Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships. — Michael Jordan