At this special time of year when we take inventory of the freedoms afforded to us in the great nation, I am particularly thankful for Team Spirit in America. I survived 9/11 because of teamwork, so for me, as a national public speaker and “expert” on teamwork, I live it, breathe it, share it and teach it. However, two recent events caused me to pause and reflect on the health of our nation’s attitude towards teamwork.
The first event was the announcement that President Obama was awarded the Nobel peace prize. The second more subtle part to the national dialogue on teamwork came with the announcement that Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Brett Farve “has now beaten every NFL team.” What do these two events have in common? In both cases, golden opportunities were missed to highlight “team spirit” and to enhance a greater feeling of unity in this country during such a critical time in our nation’s history.
In the case of “Brett Farve defeating every NFL team,” the last time I checked, football was not an individual sport but rather a game based on team play. In fact, Mr. Farve has not, and I quote, “defeated every team.” A more appropriate headline would have been, “Brett Farve has led his teams to victory against every NFL team.” Brett Farve is a true leader and as such he himself has always pointed out that he is part of a team and that his victories are the team’s victories. He like other true team sports heroes recognizes the value of teamwork.
His greatest accomplishment, I submit, is not his play on the field but rather the work behind the scenes which he accomplishes to create a winning team spirit and to unify a diverse group of people into a cohesive winning and successful team.
Now let’s take a look at President Obama’s achievement. After the announcement was made that President Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize, the backlash throughout the media was not a sense of pride over the positive recognition the President had brought to America by winning such a universally accepted honor but rather negative commentary such as: “what has he really accomplished to deserve this prize?, and “perhaps the Nobel Prize committee was making a political statement” instead of awarding the prize to someone who truly deserved it.
Of course, many of the less-than-positive comments directed toward this incredible award were politically motivated. Steeped in politics or not, all of the negative commentary throughout the United States political spectrum only served to show how little concern our so-called “thought leaders” have for team spirit or desire to create a sense of unity in this country.
Over the past several years I have written many articles and given many speeches concerning the subject of teamwork and the concepts of teambuilding. I constantly marvel at the fact that so many people say they want to build better teams but when shown how to do so refuse to take responsibility for making teaming relationships a reality. I constantly wonder why if teamwork is such an important goal and if people wanted so much why is it so hard to achieve?
I suspect that the answer is that people don’t really understand teamwork or they are hesitant to subject themselves to the interdependence that teamwork requires.
So how can we contribute to bringing back a sense of unity and teamwork in the United States? First, we must want to be part of the team. The fact is that we have team relationships throughout every aspect of our lives. We have relationships with coworkers, spouses, other students and teachers if we are in school, and some of us even have strong team relationships with other creatures such as the one I have with my guide dog, Africa. Think of what our world would be like if we didn’t have such team relationships. We should be grateful for these relationships and the opportunities they afford us to add value and help shape our destiny, personally and nationally.
A sense of unity and teamwork in our country is no different. It doesn’t matter that the whole United States team contains over 350 million members. The fact is we should still view our entire population as other members on the same team. If we don’t value and accept our interdependence and make that work for the greater good, how can we expect to reach our potential greatness as a country?
Second, we must lead by example. What is each of us doing to help create a sense of teamwork in the United States? Are we demanding that our political leaders find ways to work together? Are we insisting that the various factions of Congress stopped throwing stones and start getting creative in finding solutions to our country’s problems?
I leave you with this question. What have you done today to help build a better team?