The Power of Teamwork

     Examples of the power of teamwork can be seen everywhere. In nature, for example, large flocks of geese fly thousands of miles to their destination as the seasons change. These flocks are made up of hundreds of individual birds with limited capabilities to go the distance alone, but somehow nearly all of them make it to their destination. How do they do it? The answer is simple: teamwork. One bird serves as leader while the others fly in formation to minimize wind resistance for the birds behind them. When the lead bird tires, he rotates to another position so a different bird assumes the responsibility of leading the flock. If each individual bird decided to make this long journey by itself, most – if not all – undoubtedly would fail. In contrast, when all the birds work together as a flock –as a team – they reach their goal and arrive at their final destination.

     Birds also demonstrate another important aspect of effective teamwork. Have you ever noticed how a bird by itself may not be particularly ener­getic whereas when a number of birds get to­gether they seem to ener­gize each other. This phe­nomenon can be consid­ered an example of synergy, a concept closely related to teamwork. Simply put, synergy is the action of two or more elements to achieve a result greater than they would achieve individually. This phenomenon is true with humans as well as in the animal kingdom.

     Another way to define synergy is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, 1 +1 = 3 or 4 or more. When team members cooperate and work together, they can always do more than if any one team member tried to accomplish the same goal alone. Engineers have learned that when geese fly in formation, each bird, by flapping its wings, creates an uplift for the bird that follows. Together the whole flock can fly over 70 percent further than if they fly alone. Now that’s synergy!

     Perhaps the most obvious examples of teamwork – and synergy – can be found in athletics where teams driven by enthusiastic teamwork usually win, while a lack of synergy and teamwork generally results in losing. Even some sports normally considered individual sports require the efforts of a team. Consider the most famous cycling race of all, the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong praises all his team members for making these victories possible. Various cyclists serve in different positions as they and Armstrong speed away on the predetermined route to each day’s destination in this grueling 21-day race. Supporting the cyclists are the ground crew, the communications team, and other teams that enable the cyclists to be better than their competitors.

     Lance Armstrong sums up the power of effective teamwork in any endeavor this way, “No one wins alone.”

Leadership Management Institute
Reprinted with permission
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