To me, the word TEAM stands for ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’. And it’s true.  When the values and actions of many align with the vision of the whole, just about anything becomes possible. Add love, humility and a servant’s heart to the team and everyone benefits.

Yesterday I had the privilege of having lunch with someone who leads with love. Someone who believes that his company’s ongoing success, despite a difficult economy, is the result of taking care of his people – creating a transparent environment of trust where people are empowered to lead and live up to their fullest potential; an environment where balancing the demands of work with time for family and self-care creates sustainable high performance instead of pushing people to the point of burnout.  His vision, values, and commitment to TEAM are clear and the results speak for themselves.

I saw a different, albeit equally impressive example of TEAM last week in China. I was there as part of a delegation formed to share best practices in clean energy innovation in sustainable urban planning. Our team visited several communities and met with various Chinese urban planning officials, policy makers and clean tech companies working together on an unfathomable scale to address the environmental impact of mass urbanization. We were collectively awed by the possibilities of what clear vision, effective teamwork and strong leadership can produce. Equally impressive was their willingness to seek advice and input from others, recognizing that there is much to learn from each other.

In sharp contrast, these last few weeks I have also bore witness to two separate, yet equally exhausting examples of an alternative, less savory version of the acronym TEAM. I have watched tremendous initiative, effort and vision of what’s possible get buried under an avalanche of noise manifesting as territorial behavior, rooted in ego, pride and fear. I have watched helplessly as people, organizations and ideas have become polarized – stalemate and inertia setting in, attempting to take root in ever-shifting sands. Sadly, I have watched as the acronym TEAM morphed into a different meaning altogether: Territorialism Eventually Annihilates Motivation.

So I wonder to myself and I’m curious to ask…

How do we lead with love, love our teams, and continue to build bridges in the face of resistance? How, as leaders, do we build foundations of trust and transparency when others would rather play politics? How do we stay motivated and inspire others to align to a common goal? How do we teach and model the true meaning of TEAM – that together, we really can achieve more than any of us can do alone?

5 thoughts on “TEAM

  1. What an amazingly powerful post. You have captured examples on both ends of the ‘TEAM’ spectrum and challenged us to consider ways to avoid the second, less desirable state.

    Ahh, the ‘Power of TEAM.’ Having played sports for most of my life, I have learned clearly and intimately the ‘Power of TEAM’ as you first defined it — working together to achieve more than the sum of the whole. For whatever reason, I tended to gravitate to team sports rather than individual sports. And I believe the answer we seek about the power of team lies there; it lies in the difference in focus between the team and the individual; between the collective and the self. I’ll come back to that.

    I count one of the greatest accomplishments of my life a direct result of the ‘Power of TEAM.’ It was early 1970s in South Carolina, racism was rearing its ugly head and was manifesting itself in the high schools. And more personally in my high school (James Island High School), which was half Caucasian and half African-American, racial tensions led to full fledges RIOTS. What was behind this madness? This hate-filled behavior was a reaction to something that was man-made; it was a reaction to something that was intended as a celebration — Black History Week. Those of us who were brothers and sisters, those of us who were learning life together, those of us who had sweated in weight rooms and bled on the competive fields together, those of us who had fought in the baseball and football trenches together — suddenly found ourselves at odds with each other. And in two years running, this craziness resulted in incredible physical violence that in each case felt like hell, felt like all out war, felt wrong.

    So here’s where the Power of TEAM came in. Just prior to the 3rd year anniversary of the riots, the football team (reflecting the make-up of the school, equal parts Caucasian and African American) was on a roll. We had an undefeated record that we should not have had. We had average talent, without any stars. But, there was something special about this team. We were tight. We were close. And, we had watched our lives get changed for unknown reasons for two years running. We wanted to do something about it. So we did.

    As the 3rd anniversary of the riot approached, the team decided to band together and fight. Yet our idea to fight was different from previous years. We announced to the rest of the school that if anyone wanted to fight, they would be fighting the football team — together — Black and White. On the morning of that 3rd anniversary, no one showed up in the dirt parking lot that had been the war zone for the two previous years. There was no fighting, nor major celebrations — only quiet, calm, confident, positive feelings that we had done something important. The TEAM went on to be undefeated (14-0), state champions and ranked #1 in the state. We beat Clinto for the championship that came down to a last second, missed field goal by them. We persevered, we had won.

    While the accomplishments on the field were something to be proud of, the real life-changing accomplishments resulting from the power of THAT team were overcoming man-made racial tensions, stopping rioting at THAT high school and ALL high schools in the state and putting the state of South Carolina on an accelerated path to racial healing.

    If individual talent, skills and interests were the only ingredients to success, there is no way that team would have excelled, much less become champions. When we give up our individual wants and desires; when we squash ego, fear, pride and territorialism; when we lead from an unselfish place, a heart-centerd and loving place; when we realize that we are all equal; we ABSOLUTELY are more powerful than the sum of the whole. I know it, I experienced it, first hand. I am a believer.


  2. Is it possible to boil lit all down to one statement – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? It’s a very simple concept, very understated, and enormously powerful.


    1. I couldn’t agree with you more, Georgia. As I am fond of saying, “can’t we all just play nice and get along?” The issues of territorialism often come down to a mindset of scarcity versus abundance. When we lead and serve others from a place of love and abundance, there is no need to constantly jockey for position and/or fight for territory. There is room at the table for everyone.


    1. Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by to read the post.
      Unfortunately, I do not know how you might go about finding professional writers, though there may be freelance writer forums that you can find online. Best of luck to you!


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