Like all other basketball enthusiasts, I love the month of March. It is both exciting and maddening as you watch the NCAA basketball tournament unfold. Watching the teams play reminds me of what it means to work as a team. It also points me back to perhaps the best definition of teamwork I’ve ever heard.
It’s not from someone related to sports. Rather he was a successful businessman turned philanthropist. He generated an incredible fortune in the steel industry. He believed that great wealth was a sacred trust and that the possessor of such wealth was bound to use it for the good of the community.
If you’ve guessed Andrew Carnegie, you’d be correct.
Being a successful businessman, Carnegie must have known something about leading teams. So it’s no surprise he came up with this definition of teamwork:
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
Why is this definition of teamwork so valuable? I can think of three reasons.
A Definition of Teamwork That Leads to Success
In this definition of teamwork, three distinct elements stand out. They are what drives teams and helps them achieve success. Teamwork is all about…
1. Working together. Successful teams have to work together. No member can be ignored. No member can slack off and refuse to pull their own weight. No member can think they are more important than any other.
Working together requires the will of all team members to be subject to the will of all the others. If one member stumbles or veers in the wrong direction it affects the entire team. Like a precision flying team they must stay the course together to accomplish the mission.
2. Having a common vision. Speaking of mission, teams simply won’t accomplish what they want if they don’t have one. Some would call this having a vision…an end game that drives all results.
Teams won’t accomplish the vision if all the members haven’t bought into the vision 100%. If there is a lack of vision or if the team can’t get behind the vision, the results will be nonexistent. At the least the results will suffer badly.
3. Recognizing you are something bigger than yourself. Successful teams don’t shy away from the fact they are comprised of individuals. Each and every team member has their own unique individual talents, individual opinions and individual attitude. Despite their individuality, the members of successful teams recognize they are part of something bigger than themselves.
They have successfully bought into the organizational objectives. They see their individual accomplishments as part of something much larger. Their personal fulfillment will come only when the team reaches their ultimate goal.
The Outcome for Teams
So what happens when teams function in this manner? Carnegie believed the manifestation of these three elements moved the team to achieve. He likened it to fuel that propelled the team forward to accomplish results.
But not just any results – he called them uncommon results. Results above and beyond what they could comprehend. Results the individuals could not expect if they were trying to attempt something on their own.
That’s the beauty of teams and why this definition of teamwork is so special. When team members work together, pursue a common vision and recognize there are part of something larger than themselves, they are able to reach farther and achieve more than they ever thought possible.
Questions: What other definition of teamwork that you’ve heard of stands out to you? What other things make teams work? What’s the best team you’ve ever been a part of?