Tag: teammates

8/12/12 “Team Work”

Good day, team.

The 2012 Olympics are coming to a close, so I’d like to write about teamwork for this week’s challenge.

We hear the word “teamwork” so often that I think we forget how much it affects our lives. When people try to accomplish a common vision, mission or goal, they engage in teamwork. It can be as complicated as the teamwork accomplished by the NASA team members who recently landed the Curiosity rover on Mars or as simple as a group of children on a playground coordinating a game of hide-and-seek. Throughout our lives, we engage with others to work together and achieve.

During this year’s Olympic games, I’ve been encouraged by the spirit of teamwork I’ve observed among many of the athletes. For example, when the U.S. men’s swim team put Michael Phelps in the last position in the team relay race. His teammates were motivated most by Michael getting another gold medal, which make him the most successful Olympic athlete of all time. If they could get him a good enough lead, then he would have a better chance at winning in the last swim. As Michael said, “I’m so grateful to these guys, they just handed me the best position and without that, we might not have won the gold.”

I was amazed to watch Jordyn Wieber of the U.S. women’s gymnastic team rooting in the stands for her team within an hour after she found out she wasn’t going to compete in the all-around gymnastic finals. The woman was ranked No. 1 in the world this past year for her gymnastics abilities, yet she didn’t win out over her own teammates to compete in the overall competition. Individually, it was a stunning blow after training her entire life in the sport. But for the sake of her teammates, she rallied soon after the disappointment to cheer them on to victory.

When working with teams, I often relay the story of Michael Jordan when he first became part of the Chicago Bulls basketball team. Michael was the best basketball player anyone had ever seen. At one of his first practices, he made basket after basket, running circles around his new teammates. At some point, Phil Jackson, his coach, pulled him aside and said that he wasn’t interested in Michael just making points. He would need to become a team player if he wanted to play for the Bulls and that meant often sacrificing making the basket himself to give the ball to one of his teammates. Michael was stunned. Wasn’t it about winning? Yes, Jackson replied, but there is no “I” in team.

Babe Ruth once said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Teamwork is often what inspires us to keep going when we think we can’t. Individually, we may be motivated to beat out everyone else, but we are limited by our personal abilities. However, when we are part of a team, there’s an extra incentive to win, to go that extra mile for our teammates. To be a part of a team, we have to trust that our teammates are behind us and rooting for us, that they want us to win as much as they want to win themselves. There’s that extra bit of encouragement that comes when you hear your teammates yell out, “Come on, you can do it!” that can make all the difference

At the heart of trust is the understanding that someone is working his or her hardest for our benefit. It’s not completely self-less because when we work hard for the benefit of others, we often get the most benefit ourselves. But the victory is so much sweeter when we can share it with our teammates. It made me so happy to see the U.S. women’s soccer team crying, laughing and hugging each other in a big, joyous, chaotic pile of women on the field right after they defeated the Japanese team for the gold medal. Without teamwork, this never would have happened.

This week, check in to see how your teamwork is going. Have you had your head down so much that you haven’t been reaching out to your team as much? Maybe you feel like the lone ranger and need to find ways to reconnect with some of your teammates. How about the overall health of your team? Is there suspicion and gossip happening? Or do you see team members being considerate of each other and supportive in working toward a common goal? If someone on the team needs more direction, is there another team member taking the time to sit down with him or her to give support? Do you see someone drifting away from the team and if so, what can you do to help him or her feel more like a part of the whole team rather than just an individual contributor?

As human beings, belonging to a greater whole is essential for our happiness. The more connected we feel, the healthier we are physically and psychologically. This is your week to do a team check. Take a look at your team, whether at work or home. Are you a healthy participant? What can you do to ensure that your team will continue to thrive?

Mia Hamm, the great American women’s soccer player once remarked, “I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team. I defer to it and sacrifice for it because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.


Good day, team,

This weekend, the weather outside was cold and damp so I decided to spend a good portion of the day lounging on the couch watching college football.

I’ve been a football fan since I was young. I just happened to be lucky enough to live in Wisconsin when the Packers, under Vince Lombardi, won the Super Bowl. I was also living in Washington, D. C., when the Redskins won, and in New York when the Jets won, and in Miami when the Dolphins won. When I moved to San Francisco, I guess the 49ers caught my luck, because they started an unbelievable winning streak that lasted for years. I often thought I should start betting on football teams based on where I was going to live next!

Since then, I’ve moved to a city where there is no pro football team, and I guess my luck doesn’t apply to professional basketball, given the Blazers’ record. But I’ve become much more enamored of college football over the years, so this weekend I settled in for a long day of watching good games.

During the Oregon State vs. University of California at Berkeley (“Cal”) game, I saw something happen that is the heart of this week’s challenge. One of Cal’s star players, Jahvid Best, vaulted over a player from Oregon State into the end zone and fell hard from five feet in the air onto his neck and head. The entire Memorial Stadium went silent.

In a subsequent news report, Cal’s quarterback, Kevin Riley, said, “I was standing right there. You knew when he landed it was something. His eyes were blank, and he was trying to breathe.”

The report continued, “Best’s teammates went down on their knees and waited, then moved to the end zone as trainers and doctors took him away on a stretcher. The game was delayed 13 minutes. Some of Oregon State’s players who were on the field at the time huddled together in support.”

As I watched all of this play out on TV, I was moved to tears when I saw both teams go down on their knees to pray for Best. I expected the Cal team to do so, but when the Oregon players huddled together in prayer for him, I was inspired.

Just minutes before, the goal of the Oregon State team was to beat its opponents at any cost, and they were doing everything they could to prevent Best from getting into the end zone. But when he went down, everything changed, and what everyone wanted was for him to be all right.

I thought about the teams I’m working with and how combative team members can be with each other. They can get nasty when they feel their territory is threatened, or they’re being blamed for something they did or didn’t do, or someone is trying to sabotage them. This competitiveness plays out in so many destructive ways—not just within the team, but throughout the organization—that it often takes years to heal the rifts between team members.

At the same time, when something terrible or life-threatening happens to one of our teammates, we suddenly realize how important we are to each other and are immediately humbled into that place within us of unconditional love and compassion. In this place, we are truly connected. All the noise and flying fur that occurs when we fight can create one bad story after another that builds on itself and then becomes so large we lose our ability to appreciate each other. I call it the “beastly bundle,” that knot that holds all the bad news and nasty commentary. Sometimes the bundles become so big, we can no longer see over or around them, and when we look at our teammate, all we see is a beast.

I encourage you to examine your thoughts and emotions when a colleague irritates you. Are you telling yourself a story that says, “That person is out to get me. How can they be so disrespectful? Why are they doing this to me? I’ll figure out a way to get back at them. They’ll be sorry they treated me like this.”

If you’re telling yourself such a story, think again. It’s not that these thoughts don’t come up—they do, and along with them come all kinds of sensations that we have to deal with, such as tightness of chest, shortness of breath, fire in the belly, heart racing, etc. But if we don’t grab hold of these negative thoughts, emotions and sensations, if we see that they are just part of a story, then they do not control us. Seeing them is not being them, and the part of us that is able to observe can free us from our negative thoughts and emotions by remembering what’s really important.

This week, try neutralizing your negativity about your teammates. Maybe you do that by looking at the bigger picture. Ask yourself what the whole team is trying to achieve, rather than being solely focused on winning one battle. Perhaps you need to be reminded of what other challenges your teammate is trying to deal with to get a better sense of why he or she is behaving badly. Difficult health or family issues can put any of us in a negative state at work. Try spending some down-time with your teammate, at lunch or over coffee, talking about something other than your jobs. If you don’t get the connection you’re hoping for, try something as simple as forgiving her or him and realizing that as much as you’d like to say, “Get over it!” what’s really needed is kindness.

Why does it require the hard lesson of seeing that we might lose someone to value that person? As I watch my father slowly die of kidney failure, so much of my anger and sadness about him melts away in my heart. At the end of the day, all I really feel for him is love and compassion, forgiveness and gratitude. The stories will all be silenced when he dies, just as they were for the Oregon State player who one moment was trying to defeat his rival and the next was down on his knees silently praying for his recovery.

We are so lucky to have one another and be able to work together toward our common goals. Let’s try this week to appreciate our teammates for who they really are and take responsibility for our own negativity by not always believing the stories we like to tell ourselves. Remember that we’re all trying to do the best we can, and each of us is trying to make a difference. In that way, we are much more alike than we realize.

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2009 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.