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Senior Correspondent

"Trust is not a matter of technique, but of character. We are trusted because of our way of being, not because of our polished exteriors or our expertly crafted communications." — Marsha Sinetar

We frequently conduct leadership teambuilding retreats at The Quality Coach!® One of the first coaching challenges we put out to folks is to think of "team as a verb," rather than a noun. 

Too many times we experience disappointment when we call a group a team and expect them to perform, as a team. We call that the "poof you are a team syndrome." We learned the hard way that just calling a group a team isn't nearly enough. Working as a team is work. And it takes time, attention, and discipline to become a high performing team.

Our simple definition of high performance Pulling Together teamwork is "pulling together." John Murphy suggests that "high performance teams recognize that it takes a joint effort to synergize, generating power above and beyond the collected individuals. It is with this spirit of cooperation that effective teams learn to capitalize on individual strengths and offset individual weaknesses, using diversity as an advantage."

It takes a significant amount of work to become a fully functioning team in the workplace. There are many reasons for that, but a significant challenge is that most of us are taught and programmed to be individual contributors, to do our bit. And doing our bit is absolutely necessary. We must be able to operate with a certain level of independence and autonomy.

It turns out, however, that others in our organization depend upon our work deliverables. They are referred to as our "internal customers." And, our internal customers rely on us to deliver what they need, when they need it in order for them to be able to serve their customers. Our customers must be able to trust that we know what's most important to them and that we can and will deliver. Trust is just another word for team.

Our ability to function as a team greatly depends upon our communication. "Quality Communication" makes teamwork possible. We naturally pull together when we work from a basis of "shared understanding." We naturally pull apart when we misunderstand each other.

The word communicate comes from the latin communico, which means to share. Most of the work involved in teamwork has to do with communicating. It sometimes feels like over-communicating but if a misunderstanding can be prevented, it is almost always worth the investment.

So, if you are getting the idea that high performance teamwork requires self-management and self-discipline, you would be correct. To build a high performing team, we must put the team first, and become accountable to our fellow team members.

Teaming is not limited to people you directly work with. You may need to team with individuals in different departments, on different shifts or even in different companies. You may need to team to pull off a volunteer project. There are many times when we need to team around shared goals. We need to align our roles and our communication to pull something off that none of us can make happen as individuals.

"Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act." — James Thurber

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