As a young boy growing up playing sports, I often heard the phrase just before the start of each game: ‘May the best team win!’ Looking back, it was a phrase that had limited meaning to a group of young boys playing a game. After all, we had heard those words numerous times over the course of the summer – and expected to hear the phrase as if it were part of the coin-flip exercise to see which team would kick the ball first. Never in my mind could I imagine how that phrase would have real meaning in today’s global business world.
Back in the day, we all grew up with values that favored individual responsibility and performance over team performance. This was played out in society…in school, in work and anywhere else we competed against each other as independent parts of the system. People viewed teamwork as meaning, let’s cooperate or coordinate with each other. The idea of teamwork as collaboration with each other did not come up except perhaps in the case of a crisis. And the term interdependent was not a word growing up. In fact, I now know that the term, collaboration, had more of a negative connotation or meaning, often described in the context of collaborating with the enemy.
Today, collaboration is used to describe how organizations leverage team resources. We know in the global business world that more and more work is being done by teams – and that trend is only going to continue. However, we don’t know the effectiveness of teams when it comes to practicing genuine collaboration. I suspect it’s not very effective. Why? Again, based on our current values, most people don’t function with a mindset that supports collaboration. It’s not in our DNA, and this idea that people can switch mindsets on-demand to collaborate effectively is not realistic!
Developing an alternative mindset to help people on teams effectively collaborate is the task at hand for today’s leaders and organizations. Here’s the good news: an alternative mindset can be learned! How? It starts with training, and is followed by ongoing coaching.
Bottom line: In the highly competitive global business world we live in, the phrase, 'May the best team win!', will have real meaning for organizations that are serious about leveraging resources, such as effectively collaborating to achieve a competitive advantage in the workplace. For instance, if the game is to innovate for business growth, the stakes are always high. To win, you must effectively collaborate to innovate. What’s more, success is achieved by applying a mindset that recognizes the interdependent nature of the team’s relationship. Anything short of that application means the team loses.