Real Examples of Great Teamwork

2022.03.31.

Google

Being a gigantic corporation, the international prize that Google has been obsessed with for years, was finding ways to compile the “perfect team.” Using a huge number of analytical tools over the last decade or so, as well as investing millions of dollars, Google has been measuring nearly every aspect of their workers' lives. They were searching for the traits that show up in the best managers, as well as looking at such factors as to how employees relate to each other, including such factors as how they eat together. Anything that would help bring them closer to the Holy Grail of the perfect team.

The general consensus has always been simple. The best team is simply a combination of the best people. But within this simplistic view, you find a myriad of different factors. To find the right combination certainly wasn't a simple process. Over a umber of years, starting in 2012, Google interviewed hundreds of its employees. And all in the name of a project called “Project Aristotle.” They looked at over 100 active teams and then analysed the data from the investigations.

As Abeer Dubey, a manager in Google’s People Analytics division puts it, “We looked at 180 teams from all over the company. We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.’’ But in truth, the conclusion of all of this data collecting was something that every good manager could tell you for free over a coffee. It's that the best teams have members who show empathy, sensitivity and care about how they interact with their colleagues. In short, they listen to each other. As well as communicating openly.

A mid-level manager at Google called Matt Sakaguchi  decided to put Project Aristotle’s findings to the test. He had been previously diagnosed with cancer, but only now decided it was time to be more open about it with his team. Taking them to an off-site retreat he opened up about his diagnosis. Though his team members were understandably initially shocked and silent, they gradually began to share their own personal experiences, including their struggles as well as their victories. This created something Google called “psychological safety.” This is a belief that the team feels safe if they need to take risks together. A sort of comforting strength in numbers.

What Google ended up discovering was that it doesn't really matter who is in the team. The most important factor is how each team member interacts with others. It's important that all members can contribute to the conversation on an equal basis. And through empathy, they can learn to respect each other's emotions. It seems crazy that it took over 10 years to come to this conclusion. But there it is.

The Rolling Stones

If you want to feel old, then just consider that the Rolling Stones have been playing together for more than 50 years. Yet the individual members of the group still recognise just how important it is that they get together, practice and rehearse. As a team, they understand that excellence will only become a habit. And that requires a shared approach to working together. By practicing over and over, then excellence becomes second nature.

Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and the late Charlie Watts, all acknowledge that they recognise the importance of practicing together. Though they all live thousands of kilometres apart, before every tour, all members of the band commit to a minimum of 2 months of studio rehearsal time. This gives them an opportunity to reconnect, both on a personal level, and with their repertoire of songs. It's important that when they finally go on tour, they are able to perform with an almost telepathic sense of communication. Keith Richards has commented that he knows exactly what's happening by watching Charlie Watt's left hand. If ever the tempo begins to drag, then a simple glance from Richards towards the drummer Watts, allows them to connect instantly and step up the pace

Apart from an amazing song catalogue, the Rolling Stones put down their success to each team member having a complementary role, whilst at the same time, remaining their own distinctive performer. As such, Richards is seen as the spiritual leader, but Charlie Watts is the band’s backbone. Ronnie Wood is the mediator. But overseeing everything is Mick Jagger, who has a role similar to that of a CEO. Each of the band’s members is talented in their own right. Though it’s through teamwork that the real chemistry of the group comes out.  In fact, all members have said that by being a member of The Rolling Stones, this is the best way for them to achieve their individual goals. As with all team dynamics, the best teams can combine an individual understanding of the importance of power. As well as the drive which can really help power the team forwards. One of the secrets for maintaining an excellent team is to recognise there is no substitute for deliberate practice and commitment. 


Marvel’s The Avengers

Individual characters within the MCU are also a great example of teamwork. Movie characters including Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Thor are seen as inspirational characters for their comic book fans. But  they also show us the value in both teamwork and being part of a team itself. Throughout all the movies, we can see that there's a basic premise that one team is better than one person. That their strength, though individually incredible, really only comes to the fore when used alongside others.In other words, the magic really happens when the team is working together instead of simply working as individuals.

One factor that we can see throughout all the MCU movies, is that ego also plays a large part of the character traits of some of its main protagonists. We can see for example, that Iron Man and Captain America have a completely different world view. For them, with their fixed ideas, compromise is not really an option. Yet despite their differing personalities and worldviews, they are able to put aside any disagreements and work as one single entity.  There is a mutual respect for what each character can bring to the table. As a general rule for team building, it's important that everyone leaves their ego at the door. The whole point of building a team is that by being part of it, the team becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Having a single purpose, and being able to tackle it as a team, as a single cohesive unit, will be able to accomplish wonders. Just ask Iron Man or Captain America.
 

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