What image comes to mind when you hear the word teamwork? Is it an image of a sports team putting their hands together in a huddle? Is it an image of people pulling on the same rope? Is it an image of interlinking gears?
If you search the internet for images of teamwork, many of the top results are photos of rowing teams. I find rowing images to be fitting examples because they capture two crucial ingredients of teamwork: concertion and faith. Without those two ingredients, true teamwork ceases to exist.
Concertion is the act of concerting or deliberately adjusting your behaviors to be in concert (in sync) with those around you. In the sport of rowing, team members must row in concert with each other. They must match the speed, strength, and rhythm of their fellow rowers.
For their boat to achieve maximum efficiency, rowers can’t necessarily row as fast as they want or can, nor are they able to slow down to a pace that is comfortable to them. Concertion requires rowers to sacrifice their comfort and desire to row differently than the rest of their team. They must adjust their wants to meet their teams’ needs.
A popular African proverb advises: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. Rowing simultaneously rebuts and affirms that proverb. No kayak nor canoe can move faster nor farther than a team of rowers.
Kayaking and canoeing provide a contrasting illustration of the second crucial teamwork ingredient. In kayaking and canoeing you face forward and can see where the boat is heading. That’s not the case with rowing.
In rowing, everyone but the coxswain (leader) is facing backwards. Rowing requires faith. Rowers must trust the vision of their leader and believe that their individual efforts are contributing to the boat heading in the right direction.
Concertion and faith lead to synergy—the product of combined efforts yielding greater results than the sum of individual efforts. Good teammates practice both concertion and faith.
We’ve all experienced occasions when we’ve wanted to “do our own thing”—on our own schedule and at our own pace. But when you are part of a team, you aren’t afforded that kind of independence. You need to adapt to your teams’ schedule and pace.
Being part of a team necessitates give-and-take. Sometimes you are going to need to give more than you expect; other times you will need to take on less than you want. In either situation, you must have faith that your giving or taking is advancing your team.
The need for concertion and faith may not be apparent when merrily rowing the boat down gently flowing streams. But they are imperative when the team is challenged by the proverbial rough waters—and every goal-driven team faces challenges at some point. The value of true teamwork, and truly good teammates, is revealed during these moments.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.