If you Google the word clique, you’ll find the top search result to be the Oxford Dictionary definition: a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.
That definition sounds a lot like the definition of a team. But cliques are nothing like teams. Cliques are mini-groups within the team that destroy the team from the inside out. Cliques prevent teams from reaching their potential. Cliques are bad.
However, just because cliques are bad doesn’t mean everyone in the clique is bad. Assuming that cliques always form out of dissention would be a mistake. Sure, some cliques are the clustering of malcontents dissatisfied with team policy. But most cliques are the result of individuals hesitant to venture outside of their comfort zones.
In sports, they’re seniors who only hang out with other seniors. They’re defensive players who only hang out with other defensive players. In the workplace, they’re salesmen who only fraternize with other salesmen. They’re marketing associates who only partner with other associates in their department.
The best teams are comprised of fiberglass teammates.
Fiberglass is a versatile product, used to make auto parts, boats, airplanes, surfboards, and bathtubs. In fact, Owens Corning cites over 40,000 fiberglass applications. The appeal being that fiberglass is stronger, lighter, cheaper, and more flexible that many metals.
Fiberglass is literally made from glass—the same glass used to make windows, wine bottles, chandeliers, etc. Fiberglass is produced by forcing molten glass through microfine strainers that produce thin “threads” of glass. Those threads are then randomly woven together and mixed with resin.
What’s interesting about fiberglass is that it isn’t the resin that gives the product its strength—it’s the number of connections made between the tiny brittle glass threads. The more fibers touching each other, the stronger the fiberglass.
The situation for successful teams is similar. Fiberglass teammates make a deliberate effort to connect with as many of their fellow teammates as they can. Every connection they make bonds them to another teammate. Bonded teammates are connected teammates. Connected teammates are fiberglass teammates. Fiberglass teammates thwart cliques.
Becoming a fiberglass teammate may require you to get out of your comfort zone and interact with members of your team who you normally would not. This may entail you having to mix up your usual routing. Maybe you’ll need to eat lunch with a different group of teammates or even take your lunch break at a different time.
But sacrificing the convenience of your comfort zone to connect with more teammates will strengthen your team and lead you to become a good teammate.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.