What Makes a Great Team?

Like any plant, the growth of the Bamboo requires nurturing through water, fertile soil, and sunshine. It is only by supplying it the right amount of nutrients, at specific times, and doing so consistently over and over again does the Bamboo grow. The tree cannot grow by itself, it requires help, and by working together with the gardener, the tree grows to its full potential and the gardener blooms in happiness seeing the rewards of his/her hard work.

The combined efforts of individual players create a legendary team

​Now that I’ve convinced you that the sum of collective, not individual, efforts create a powerful force, let’s take a look at how YOU can contribute your best efforts to the team.

Become an auditor for a day, sit down somewhere quite, and reflect deeply on what it is you’re good and not so good at. Once you definitely know, stick to your core capabilities and nurture them. If you’re charismatic, love talking to people, and are an awesome networker you should be in sales, human resource, or customer service/relationship management – you would not, for example, be in a back office job writing code. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that you’ll most likely be average by forcing yourself to do something you’re not built for. Why not pursue what’s naturally fit for your DNA and excel tremendously (given that you also enjoy it)? Another important self-development trait as you audit yourself, is to continuously practice humility. In a team, you can’t do it all by yourself, and that’s why it’s called teamwork (leveraging the skills and experiences of your teammates to make up for what you lack). Being humble entails recognizing your limits (what you know and don’t know) and having the courage to take a seat while allowing others to take a stand when it’s warranted.

A leader takes the stand when the team needs to be lifted up and takes a seat when the team has been lifted up

​Alright, so let’s get to the good stuff now. Obviously every team needs to come together consistently to practice, communicate, share strategies, and create a plan, in preparation for the next game. Without this, a team would never succeed. Imagine a basketball team that never met for practice, where all the players did their own thing and met only during game day with no plan in mind. Surely, they would be out of sync, they would not play as a ‘team’ i.e. pass the ball, and they would be concerned with individual stats rather than winning as a unit.

So what can you do today to become a better team player?

Start networking: think of networking as building your team, and the number of teammates you have is the number of employees working within the organization (you can network externally as well, but I’ll keep things internal for this article). So how do you reach out to people outside of your department? Microsoft Outlook. Use the address book to your advantage, send a quick email (even if it’s to someone you don’t know) and ask to meet up for a 30-minute coffee. Meeting someone in person, engaging in an informal conversation, and taking time to invest in that one person will create a friendship rather than just a work acquaintance. Networking is the first step to creating a collaborative, engaging, and fun work environment. I would also encourage you to set a goal for networking i.e. meeting a new person each week (at least) and start building your portfolio from there. It’s awesome to meet people and continuously learn from others’ work, life experiences, and stories. When your colleagues become friends rather than just employees, you will be able to trust each other more which will lead to higher productivity, job satisfaction, and collaboration.

Lead by example: be the change you want to see, by exemplifying the traits that are currently invisible. In so doing, they become visible to others who can then apply them and create a ripple effect, transferring the change to other colleagues. I strongly dislike excuses. It’s very easy to point fingers and put the blame on external factors as to why you can’t branch out to other colleagues and create a more vibrant team atmosphere, but it takes courage, action, and execution to do it – that is the challenging part. If we all remain complacent and imprisoned in our little bubbles, the company as a whole cannot excel to the standards it should. We need to take initiative to get the ball rolling. You can start today, by coming every morning to work with a positive attitude, making your colleagues feel/look good by highlighting their strengths and congratulating them on a job well done, setting up meetings with others to work on projects that may or may not relate directly to your work, go out for drinks after work hours with colleagues (inviting people from other departments would be a value-add), have lunch in a lunch room (or public space) where you can engage in productive conversations and possibly make new connections etc. Opportunities are available, they just don’t come to you on a silver platter.

Patience, persistence, commitment, and consistency is the breeding ground for long-term success in improving yourself and those around you

In the first year, there’s no visible progression of the Bamboo trees growth, despite doing everything right. In the second year, again there is no growth. The third, fourth year still show no signs of anything happening. Within these four years, the person caring for the plant is tested. It requires patience to withstand years of seeing no progress, as doubts begin to overshadow your confidence.

But then, in the fifth year, something remarkable happens….

The Chinese Bamboo Tree grows 80 feet tall in just six weeks!

So what? Who cares? What’s the point of this story? The point is that the Bamboo tree didn’t really grow in six weeks, it took five years and six weeks to grow. If it weren’t for the consistent efforts of the nurturing process over the five years, the tree would not be able to fully develop. Individual and team growth requires time and nurturing, it does not happen over night, but if we start TODAY we can all achieve heights that were previously unthinkable.