The Team Comes First
Team Work

The Team Comes First

Russ Sarratt and Rusty Chadwick’s basic guide to the mind-set of successful teams focuses on the emotional connections among team members.

Russ Sarratt – the senior director of leadership for the WinShape Foundation – and Rusty Chadwick – director of WinShape Teams – explain what makes great teams great, and how leaders can organize, manage and sustain them.

To explain how teams should work, they turn to the metaphor of an orchestra. The conductor is the team leader. When everyone in the orchestra follows the conductor’s directions and plays the same score, the orchestra makes beautiful music. In parallel, the authors say, when individual team members collaborate and prioritize the team’s needs ahead of their own, the team can do great things. 

Everyone Wins

A quality team can accomplish far more than a single employee, but unfortunately, many teams are dysfunctional, so they don’t get much done. Also, the authors note, don’t mistake a working group for a team; it’s not one because it lacks a team purpose or a clear goal. 

Bad team experiences from the past…can color our outlook on the idea of working closely with others.Russ Sarratt and Rusty Chadwick

On good teams, individual members put the team’s objectives ahead of their self-interest, and everyone works to make the team great. Members of good teams honor the principle: “We all win or none of us do.” 

A dysfunctional team can have a variety of problems. Power struggles may create conflict. Team members may fail to do their work. New, unwilling members may claim they could work faster alone, don’t want their work mixed in with other team members’ work or don’t want to team up with certain people.

Teams encompass different personalities, viewpoints and methods. Employees who are accustomed to doing things their own way must invest “relational capital” to achieve alignment and collaboration with their teammates.

A Good Team

Members of a good team know their roles, agree on a set of expectations and unite in a common purpose.Teams attain greatness when their members work together to accomplish a clearly defined goal and when each person achieves a sense of fulfillment, which matters as much as reaching the team’s goal. 

A team is a small group of people with a diverse set of strengths or skills who pursue a common goal.Russ Sarratt and Rusty Chadwick

Workers on toxic teams often don’t understand the team’s shared purpose and can’t determine whether their hard work contributes to its success. People who derive no sense of fulfillment from their work may burn out, and some will abandon the team. Others will disengage and do less work – if any. Eventually, members of toxic teams become self-centered, and the coalition falls apart. 

Servant Teamsmanship

The most effective team leaders practice servant leadership; they serve others, not themselves. On the best teams, members understand that their individual efforts matter as much as anything the team leaders say or do.Team members commit to one another and support each other’s successes. Their willingness to sacrifice for the betterment of the team exemplifies servant teamsmanship. 

A key measure of success for any team should be to what degree it is accomplishing that which it was formed to do. Russ Sarratt and Rusty Chadwick

Members who practice servant teamsmanship understand that when the team succeeds, its members succeed. Working with that mind-set, they carry out the work that lead to success. They have learned that positive beliefs drive productive behavior.

1999 US Women’s National Soccer Team

In 1999, the US Women’s National Soccer Team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The team’s triumphs against world-class opponents inspired female athletes of all ages.

When the team is healthy and successful, everyone wins. Russ Sarratt and Rusty Chadwick

The US team was made up of exceptional players, but it won because of each player’s dedication to the team and to her teammates.

Twenty years after the US team won the FIFA Cup, Sara Johnson, of ESPN-W television, created a documentary about its journey. She could hardly believe how much the team members still supported and cared about each other. The ’99ers – as the team became known – focused on what was best for the team, which had no internal hierarchy. The team’s culture included and celebrated each member. The ’99ers mutual dedication was their signature trait as a world champion team. 

Basic Principles

Sarratt and Chadwick delineate the fundamental principles that enable teams to achieve or exceed their goals. They point out that team members must own their roles. When you own the process and the results, you give your best effort. Team members should adopt a communal attitude and go beyond their personal responsibilities to support the team. They must be aware of their impact on other people. 

Good team members communicate clearly; without clarity, team members must guess what their tasks are and how to achieve them. They must maintain perspective about the tasks they take on and their relative difficulty. Since change is inevitable, team members must respond to it positively, deliberately and rationally, not negatively and emotionally.

Teaming is not easy, and unfortunately, for many, being asked to join a team often brings to mind more dread than anticipation. Russ Sarratt and Rusty Chadwick

The best teams are transformational, not transactional, but without trust, they can fall apart. Team members must serve their teammates and show their trustworthiness. Good, trusting relationships among team members build community. As a team member, demonstrate your care for your teammates and help them flourish. 

Members of the best teams share what they have, offering their abilities and resources to the entire team. Any time people collaborate, conflict can occur, but teams should deescalate any conflict quickly and should prioritize maintaining peace among team members.

The “Doorstep Mile”

The doorstep mile is the first and hardest mile of any journey. Implementing team-building principles means you must initiate the doorstep mile.

Work happens best in a healthy community and culture.Russ Sarratt and Rusty Chadwick

That bold step isn’t simple; on any journey, getting started is the toughest part – but it works if each member always puts the team’s interests first.

Team Basics

Sarratt and Chadwick offer a cheerful, gung-ho version of team basics. They seem like upbeat guys and deliver an upbeat, if unsophisticated, manual. Managers of new teams or those at start-ups or companies undergoing widespread change might consider assigning this guide to their team members as a tool for generating the necessary positive mind-set. It can serve as a handy reminder of what makes teams great without requiring too much work to get the message.

Other worthwhile books on teamwork include Plays Well with Others by Eric Barker; The Power of a Positive Team by Jon Gordon; and You Are the Team by Michael G. Rogers.

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