“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.” – Henry Ford

Rowers Rowing Boat

Steve Jobs once told a story from his childhood that shaped the way he viewed teamwork:

When I was a young kid there was a widowed man who lived up the street. He was in his eighties. One day he said to me, “Come on into my garage; I want to show you something.”

And he pulled out this dusty old rock tumbler. It was a motor and a coffee can and a little band between them. And he said, “Come on with me.” We went out into the back and we got some rocks. Some regular old ugly rocks. And we put them in the can with a little bit of liquid and little bit of grit powder, and we closed the can up and he turned this motor on and he said, “Come back tomorrow.”  

 And this can was making a racket as the stones went around. I came back the next day and we opened the can. And we took out these amazingly beautiful polished rocks. The same common stones that had gone in, through rubbing against each other like this (clapping his hands), creating a little bit of friction, creating a little bit of noise, had come out these beautiful polished rocks.

That’s always been in my mind my metaphor for a team working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s that, through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together, they polish each other and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these beautiful stones.[i]

Teamwork may not always be easy, but much like the outcome of Job’s anecdote, teamwork creates a possibility that surpasses what any individual could accomplish on their own. Effective teamwork depends on a few key ingredients in order to develop a recipe for success.

Ingredient #1: Team Cohesion

Every great team begins by laying a strong foundation that equips them to overcome challenges and rely on one another. This foundation is built by establishing trust among team members, a high level of commitment to one another and the company’s mission, and developing open communication between team members. Conflict is inevitable, but a team that values one another’s strengths and respectfully communicates with each other will use conflict as an opportunity for growth and an even greater success.

Ingredient #2: Square Peg, Square Hole

Having the right individuals in the right positions that utilize their strengths is a critical component of every great team. When each team member understands their clearly defined role and responsibility, the team will be able to leverage its diverse talent and skills for high performance. A team’s potential relies heavily on its ability to create an environment of creativity and innovation which welcomes different perspectives resulting in a unique solution to the problem. Respect for the value of every member’s contribution paired with the willingness to go beyond one’s job description to accomplish the team and organizational goal will foster productivity and goal-achievement.

Ingredient #3: Clear Purpose

In order to establish a high level of commitment and passion, every team must understand and believe in their mission and values. Aligning the team goal to the company’s mission gives those goals significance and allows the individuals to see the broader impact of their teamwork. In the midst of working toward a common goal, it’s important to measure progress and define success. Acknowledging and celebrating the team’s successes heightens motivation while fueling a greater passion for a greater success.

When we allow our teams to be polished, the outcome exceeds our expectations, much like the beautiful stones that evolved from the ordinary rocks. By implementing these key ingredients, leaders will foster and grow effective teams with a shared purpose to attain organizational goals. The opportunities are endless for your team, now it’s up to you to follow the recipe.

[i] http://sonjablignaut.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/a-great-metaphor-for-teamwork-from-steve-jobs

Worldwide Copyright TJ Associates, LLC Diane Kucala & Kendra McClelland, June 2014