We mistake groups of people for teams

What is it that makes some teams highly successful while others flounder? The most common error is that we mistake groups of people for teams. A collection of employees, athletes or children gathered together, (company, sport, etc.) may, by definition constitute a team as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary: “any group organized to work together”.

It is at this point that the difference between a Heritage defined “team ” and an effective and winning team parts company. A winning team is characterized and measured in terms of a team’s output, the ability to achieve goals and the psychological benefits of belonging to a successful team.

The following story is a good place to demonstrate important crucial components of a successful team – the willingness to supplant one’s personal agenda or goals for the benefit of the team. In the 2003 Tour de France, a bicycle race in which competitors pedal over 2000 miles in 3 weeks, an excellent illustration of teamwork occurred. An American, Tyler Hamilton, found himself in Stage 16, a 122 mile ride in the Pyrenees Mountains. Riding with a broken collarbone, obtained in the second day of racing in a horrific bicycling accident, Tyler found himself descending from a Category 4 climb on a windy and twisting road. As riders jockeyed for position, there were numerous attacks within the peloton (a group of bicyclists) with the objective of establishing a dominant team. Suddenly, the peloton split and Tyler found himself too far back of the lead group to pose as a viable threat to win the day. He called for help. His teammates forfeited their positions in the front of the peloton, dropped back to Tyler’s position, and drafted for him until he could return to the pack.

On returning to the pack, Tyler made his move with two miles left to climb. Leaving a ten-man group and putting almost a three minute advantage on the peloton, Hamilton finished first and claimed his first stage win and thus first yellow jersey after 7 years of racing in the Tour de France. This representing both a personal and team victory.

This story clearly highlights key components of a successful team – the willingness and ability to sacrifice individual goals for those of the team. In so doing, through collective effort, individuals can find themselves in a position to achieve more than they might have ever achieved individually.

Charlie SelcerAbout the author: Charlie Selcer has provided organizations with employee training and development through Strictly Success Inc. for over 10 years. Strictly Success is a U.S. based employee training company for both the public and private sectors including some of America’s Fortune 1000 companies. Strictly Success specializes in high performance teams and teambuilding, employee motivation, employee accountability and change management.

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