Teamwork - a way of thinking

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Daniel Steele
  • Commander, 45 SW Communications Squadron
Teamwork is a way of thinking. Putting our team ahead of ourselves is the essence of "service before self." But like the "force" from Star Wars, teamwork has a good side and a dark side.

As an instructor at the University of South Dakota, 15 of my 20 students in an English Literature course failed when they didn't turn in their papers. I was mystified and sought out students to tell me why so many failed. 

What I learned was a revelation. The students I talked to did the work, but didn't turn it in. Why? A few students didn't¹t want to do the work, so they bullied the rest into not turning it in either. Many students gave in, and 15 failed. The group shunned the five who turned in their work.

I learned then the most powerful force in the human universe is peer pressure. When a team is focused toward positive goals, and the members use peer pressure to encourage and help each other to do high quality work, the team virtually always succeeds. Surrounding yourself with positive thinking achievers is a virtual guarantee for personal growth and success.

As I found while teaching, surrounding yourself with people who cut corners, do "good enough" work, and don¹t help each other make failure very likely.

Hanging with those who encourage foolish or reckless behavior is a prescription for bigger trouble. As the old saying goes, "You can't soar with eagles when you surround yourself with turkeys." 

Teamwork means putting your team first and thinking about how your attitude and behaviors impact the team. Suppose you finish working on your ORI preparation tasks by noon. Do you think, "It will be great to have an afternoon to do some things I want to do." If you think this way, you may need to work on being a great teammate.

Or do you think, "I have extra time and my teammates have at least 12 hours worth of work to finish their ORI prep. How can I help, so we can all get the work done, go home, and see our families at a reasonable time?" If you do the right thing and put your team first, then you are the kind of teammate we all want.