I have best understood ‘team spirit’ after reading a short story by Prakash Iyer, in his book titled The Secret of Leadership. This profound story made a deep impact on me in my career as a leader, coach, and trainer.
The gist of the story is as follows…
Once a young traveller, Ananiaah visits Italy. On taking a short walk around the neighbourhood she noticed a group of men working. They were clanking away at huge rock boulders with a hammer. They threw repeated blows to break the boulder into smaller pieces.
She walked up to one of the men and asked a question – ‘What are you doing Sir’?
Irritated with her question, the man made a firm face, wiped the sweat from his brows and replied – ‘Can’t you see, I am breaking boulders, what else’?
Ananiaah excused herself and walked ahead. Around the corner, she saw another group of men doing the same task. Curiosity got the better of her and she asked the same question again.
This time the reaction she got was very different. The man she approached smiled at her, and in a warm proud tone replied: ‘I am making a valuable contribution… This building is going to be one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world’
This story sums up everything we need to know about the two words ‘team spirit’.
But the billion-dollar question to ask ourselves is:
- How many of us see our work as merely fulfilling a mandate, without any impact on the world…mainly because we are unable to see its end purpose or outcome? And…
- How many of us feel a sense of pride in the work we do, simply because we are able to understand that we are working toward a larger cause?
Individuals who relate to the second question, truly understand and execute team spirit in its very essence. They are able to see the big picture, the larger goal or higher purpose – call it what you will – that gives their work an added elevation.
After my 15+ years of experience, I have realised that organisations are able to build passionate work cultures that echo the deepest meaning of team spirit when they adhere to a few core principles.
These can be explained through a three-step behavioural process – namely purpose, emotion and collaboration.
Step 1: Connect with the Greater Purpose
Business strategies may be developed by key decision makers, at the top of the corporate hierarchy… But they are executed at the front end by mid-level or junior employees. The idea then is to ensure that the greater purpose of the organistaion, or even an important project, is conveyed clearly to all employees in an organisation. This will help them find greater meaning in their everyday tasks.
Have you ever tried to figure if your employees know the end goal of your business… Can they see the big picture? Are they able to clearly comprehend why the company is conducting its activities and to what end? Basically, do they know the ‘why’ of what they do?
If you look at the story of the men breaking the boulder once again, if you ask your employees what they are doing, will they say they are breaking a boulder or building a cathedral? Consequently, are they deriving satisfaction from their daily work?
Clarity on these questions results in immense employee behavioural change that ultimately gets converted into unmatchable team spirit. Employees are deeply engaged and committed, and show up at work with greater intent and commitment.
Step 2: Be Engaged Emotionally
This essentially means you need to support the greater purpose that employees feel with an ‘emotional’ connect. For instance, how does your sales team behave when their monthly target is not met? Can they accept defeat easily, or do they brood for too long, unable to take the next challenge?
Alternately, are they able to analyse what went wrong and how they should course correct, or do they simply blame each other, or worse still, blame the systems of the organisation?… Perhaps, they don’t even care?
When you are emotionally connected to a purpose, your subconscious mind pushes you to achieve your objective with that much more vigour and grit. It is mostly our emotions that drive humans to achieve the impossible. Thus, invest in building that emotional connect of your employees to the purpose… They will then come together and find solutions in a more meaningful way… And this will finally result in the organisation reaping the rich benefit of a united team spirit – at the heart of all people strategy.
Step 3: Create a culture of collaboration
Peak team spirit is governed by a collaborative effort, not a cooperative one. In a cooperative culture, we provide support only when asked. In a collaborative culture, we are proactive in offering assistance to other team members.
In teams with a collaborative culture, the slogan is ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going’. Employees do not get restricted by the fact that they have to do their work themselves, in fact they draw energy and greater work satisfaction in the knowledge that they are contributing toward a team’s success.
Very often employees in a collaborative culture are also willing to go out of the way to help other team members, and ensure they can manage their tasks more efficiently… This spirit becomes the bedrock of a mature team, in which each one sees the other grow and learn, and is happy to facilitate the same!
To sum it up…
Team spirit needs to be cultivated, nurtured, and blossomed as an ongoing process. It does not happen overnight since human dynamics and behavioural diversity is vast and confusing.
However, by keeping the above core principles in mind, we can create a work culture where team spirit is right at the centre of a company’s strategy from all standpoints: people, processes, and profits.
Finally, it is the perspective that matters – we can help our employees see themselves as clanking boulders or get them to see the bigger picture that creates a more lasting impact… The choice is ours to make…organisational behaviour is ours to define.
How would you define team spirit in your organisation? Is it collaborative or cooperative? Is it purpose-drive or mandate-driven? Do you wish to give your company direction, and imbibe in each one a sense of team spirit?
If so, simply reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll give you a customised program for your organisation. This will be a fun, educative and immersive experience for all your employees and you!
Author Profile: Kenneth Wheeler is an experienced Human Resource professional; a leader passionate about people development and coaching. He has worked extensively in different HR and L&D areas. He has diverse experience in various industries including working for start ups as a business strategic partner.