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News > Commentary - Teamwork!

Posted 7/26/2010   Updated 7/26/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Mark Farias
30th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Chief

7/26/2010 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It's teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage. I have yet to encounter a single example of extraordinary achievement that's occurred without the active involvement and support of many people. If you could get all the people in an organi¬zation rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time. Whenever I repeat this to a group of peers, they immediately nod their heads, but in a desperate sort of way. They seem to grasp the truth of it while simultaneously surrendering to the impossibility of actually making it happen. That is where the rarity of teamwork comes into play. For all the attention that it has received over the years from scholars, coaches, teach¬ers, and the media, teamwork is as elusive as it has ever been within most organizations.

Winning is a team sport. Interdependence is no longer just a theory or discretionary strategy; it is an absolute necessity. Whether in family, corporate, academic, or in our Air Force setting, teamwork is essential to long-term success (win¬ning). While all team members' contributions are essential for the team's success, leaders are accountable for converting groups into teams and for developing and sustaining cultures that support teamwork. Without effective leadership, team¬work will be a situational phenomenon at best.

A leader's effectiveness is ultimately measured by their abil¬ity to influence the choices others make. Organizational cultures exert tremendous influence over the choices made by people working in those cultures, and leadership behavior drives orga¬nizational cultures. In order to enhance their influence, leaders must create and sustain cultures that encourage team members to look for, consider, and try alternatives to the status quo.

Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but impossible. In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers' intentions are good and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, team¬mates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.

Remember, the team at the top of the mountain didn't fall there by accident! And if getting to the top was hard, staying there is even tougher. Every year, things move just a little faster, competition for resources and business gets more menacing, and the world seems a little smaller and more cramped. The answer to staying on top year after year sure isn't luck; it's the other L word: Leadership.

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