“All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.” Alexandre Dumas
Team spirit was wonderfully depicted by Alexandre Dumas’ timeless story of The Three Musketeers. The musketeers’ motto “All for one and one for all” is as relevant today as it was when the book was written back in the 1800’s. They had taken an oath to always stand up for each other and it created their reality. Another example of this kind of spirit can be found in the greatest sport teams, as winning teams put the team ahead of themselves. It’s never just about the star of the team, it’s always about the team.
“Winning teams put the team ahead of themselves”
Winning teams show that performance comes from team members coming together, giving it their all – for the team. Everyone plays an important role – and they know that when they come together, they can achieve the kind of results that could never be achieved individually. This means that even if one of their best players would be missing, the team is still as strong. This is not necessarily true for most teams, where some team members have a perceived or real “higher status” than their teammates. Others feel inferior as a result and potentially less important, and the star’s absence at best worries and at worst cripples the team’s performance.
With great team spirit everyone is willing to do everything for the team. They know that the team’s mission is bigger than any personal agenda.
When you think about it, in the world of sports, you wouldn’t even be allowed to play if you didn’t have a “musketeer mindset”! Work teams that don’t have this mindset are not tapping into their potential to be a winning team.
Here are a few common reasons why team members don’t work “all for one and one for all”
A GOSSIPING CULTURE
Team members can have a habit of speculating and jumping to conclusions. People speak behind each other’s backs, behind closed doors, creating suspicions and cliques within the team.
TEAM MEMBERS ARE NOT LOCATED TOGETHER
It can be harder to feel like a team or know how to work together across different locations. When people work remotely, they may feel alone or simply independent, which doesn’t help teamwork.
Natural employee turnover means that team members leave and others join. These changes can make it more difficult to connect and bond as a team.
Everyone has their own “model of the world” based on cultural values and habits, as well as experience and personality. When team members lack awareness or acceptance of these differences it can be difficult for them to understand and accept each other and open up for mutual teamwork.
Regardless of what the reasons are, not adopting a “musketeer mindset” makes a team inefficient at best, counterproductive at worst. But help is at hand. Here are some of our proven strategies for building that mindset.
Seven strategies for becoming “Work Musketeers”
Stay away from gossip
Negative, non-constructive gossip is always unhelpful.
A great way to stop it is simply to stay away from it, and to ask those who gossip to go and talk to the right sources rather than going behind their backs. If there are concerns that make you/others speculate; talk openly instead, ask questions and get clarity. If gossip isn’t stopped, it becomes a culture, people think it’s OK to do it, which be can become addictive.
“Stay away from gossip”
Highlight reasons and benefits
Make sure everyone sees WHY they should work as one team. To create shared ownership, get the team to brainstorm what the reasons and benefits are, or could be, of being a team. Once there are compelling benefits to being a team, it becomes natural and attractive to be part of one!
Create closeness in virtual teams
When your team members are located in different places, a lot of the natural teaming that can happen in day-to-day interactions is not there, and focused effort will be needed to create team spirit. Talk to the team and make them aware of how this can be done, while asking for their input too. Here are some suggestions:
Face-to-face meetings: If possible, bring the team together face-to-face for kick-offs, wrap-ups and celebrations, as well as conflict resolution. At an individual level, hold performance appraisals face-to-face whenever possible.
Create a team charter: A team charter gives the complete picture of a team, what it does and how it will do it. This makes it easier for a team to operate and be successful and is a must for a team who wants to maximize their success.
Conference calls: Always have an agenda for team calls, so everyone knows what to expect and can prepare. Make sure everyone has photos of all team members, which you can look at when the respective people are talking. This creates more of a face-to-face feeling. Take turns facilitating the calls.
Make use of technology: Have online chat rooms where team members can interact with each other in a more informal way. Apart from updating each other on work things, it can be used for “virtual coffee breaks” where team members can have a quick break with their colleagues at a given time.
Create work sub-teams: When possible, form sub-teams to work on specific initiatives for a set time period, to facilitate exchange of ideas and experience as well as building team spirit.
Make sure everyone speaks WE
Make it your habit to use WE talk. Whether you talk about the team or with the team, always use words that shows how committed you are to the team, and recognize others when they do it. WE talks sounds like this:
• Together we can achieve….
• We have some great opportunities here…
• Here are the next steps we should/could take….
• This is what I promise to do for us…
“Make it your habit to use WE talk”
Make teaming a long-term success skill
Teamwork is never wasted. If you’re in a team, you might as well really be in it, embracing the teamwork and the learning it gives. You can benefit now and you can benefit in the next team you’re in. To know what makes a team great is a very transportable success skill.
“Teamwork is never wasted”
Be respectful to each other
Words matter, but so does the way in which they are said. Think about how you talk to or respond to a colleague. If you need to say no to a request for example – do it kindly, considering the words you use as well as your non-verbal communication. Respectful language also comes into play when you give each other feedback on both strengths and development areas. Helpful feedback between colleagues is a very powerful way to develop and grow as individuals and as a team. Give feedback with the other person’s best interest in mind; share your specific observations and the impact of what you have observed, positively or constructively. Show that you care by using words, tone of voice and body language that conveys a message of genuine goodwill, interest and care.
“Words matter, but so does the way in which they are said”
Find the answers in the team
Everyone brings their knowledge, ideas and answers to a team – this is what you want to tap into as no one person has all the answers. Encourage team members to be open to the input of others, seeing that everyone has something unique to contribute to the team.
What we think affects how we feel, and how we feel affects how we think. Great teams think of their colleagues with amiability, inclusion, respect and care.
“What we think affects how we feel, and how we feel affects how we think”
Working together side by side is about making the most of the fact that you are a team. It’s about honouring your time and efforts at work by seeing yourself as a full-time member of the team, not just an individual contributor. And it starts with your thoughts – if you’re not already thinking about your colleagues with a “musketeer mindset”, start today, it’s never too late!
About the authors
Mandy Flint & Elisabet Vinberg Hearn, award-winning authors of ”The Team Formula”.
Their new book ”Leading Teams – 10 Challenges: 10 Solutions” is out now, published by Financial Times International.
Praise for ”Leading Teams: ”This book is a 21st-century guide on how to build a world-class team. I highly recommend it” Steve Siebold, Founder, Mental Toughness University, Florida USA.