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Good morning dear reader & welcome to my world for another week. Last week I discussed Getting Things Done [GTD], & this week I thought to develop this concept a step further & by doing so with teamwork, or not.  Picture if you would my friends, either on a variety show or a street corner, you have probably seen a one-man band. These agile musicians play a number of instruments simultaneously using their hands, feet, & limbs. These street performers are entertaining, amusing, & impressive. They make their money from passers-by who drop a couple of dollars into their case lying on the ground.  I am guessing the average person listens to a one-man band 3 or 4 minutes before moving on. 

Contrast the one-man band to experiencing a concert with the NZ Symphony Orchestra. People will pay hundreds of dollars to come & sit in a concert hall, not just for a few minutes, but for a couple of hours.  The audience will be enthralled as the orchestra plays some of the great masterpieces of music ever written. Where the street performer is amusing & entertaining, the symphony orchestra is inspiring & moving.

The symphony (unlike the one-man band) is a wonderful picture of a team. The orchestra is filled with a wide variety of talented musicians who each bring a unique skill to the team. Every person is absolutely clear about their position & what part they are to play. The orchestra wins or loses as a group. The critics will review the overall concert, not the performance of a single cello. They are led by a conductor who knows how to bring out the best in each person. The conductor also expertly coordinates all the sections so there is a flowing, seamless musical experience. It is significant the audience mostly sees the back of the conductor. His, or her job is to keep his eye on his team, not on the crowd.  
This week I saw another quite different, but powerful, picture of “team” efforts. As I reflect on the first situation there are several elements which make this such a great case study in “team”. In the second example, if the first “team” replicated the Tasman Mako “team” approach, the results for both would have to be superb, just not for my Mako men. Fins Up, BTW chaps. Some examples follow:

There has to be a clear objective.  Everyone on the team knows what “the win” is. There is a literal finish line. Not so in my first example.

They have to work together. Most of the obstacles require collaboration & dependence on other teammates to successfully overcome the obstacle.  There is no silo mentality, again, as there was in my first example.

They win or lose as a team. There are no individual honours or trophies. Except after we win a final Mako boys… And, when these teams cross the finish line, they celebrate together. There are a lot of group hugs at the finish line. Well there will be in two weeks, aye Mako men.

They cheer each other on all along the way. In the midst of a grueling physical challenge, words of affirmation & encouragement flow freely. You regularly hear the phrase “you can do this”.

They are better together. As a team they are more than just the sum of the individual parts. There was a dynamic synergy created because they were part of a unit. At the end of the game, even when they were totally exhausted [& soaking wet last night], they kept pushing ahead because they were part of a team everyone was counting on them.

Now I know that winning in business is or can be quite different. Defining the win can be fuzzier & the obstacles are less tangible.  And, we are in the people business, which is way messier than any mud crawl.  But the principles of great teamwork still apply.

Whether you are leading a team or you are a member of a team, you must keep your eye on the bulls-eye & the productivity. 

I know that the topic of team health is about as sexy as the concrete foundation under your house. But, just like your house foundation, it is absolutely vital.  And team health is hard to quantify & measure. It is sort of like trying to measure whether or not you are doing an effective job of raising children. Just like each child is different, every team is different & there is no biscuit cutting formula for establishing it. 

There are markers of an organization within a team & their health dear reader. Before you leave this article, I want to challenge you to grab a pen & a piece of paper.  Of all the markers, write down the 3 that are most true of the team you work with. Next, write down the 3 which could use some improvement. You might want to do this exercise with your people & have a discussion about the health of your team.

Thank you for taking the time to be with me once again. I hope my journey may encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson, with my best wishes for the weekend ahead. I look forward to being with you all again next week.

Kenn Butler
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