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Teamwork - 6 July 2010

Candles are a big part of spirituality. In almost every religion, the process of lighting a candle symbolises something special. I’ve never known what that ‘something special’ was, until it was explained to me in a newsletter from Rabbi Aron Moss. Despite not being Jewish, I find his weekly bulletins more inspiring than any personal development guru’s on the planet.

He explained that when you use something physical, it is diminished. The more money you spend, the less you have; the more petrol you use, the more empty your tank becomes; the more food you eat, the more you need to restock.

But spiritual things increase with use. When a teacher uses her wisdom to teach, the student learns and the teacher becomes smarter for it. When one person shares his love with another, he becomes more loving, not less. Likewise, when you use one candle to light another, the original candle remains bright. Being shared does not diminish its light; on the contrary, the two candles together enhance each other's brightness and increase light.

At work, the candle analogy applies to teamwork. Some teams are purely physical. The team members are reluctant to help their peers because they think their own productivity and personal success will be diminished. But other teams are more spiritual. They understand the light shines brighter for the whole team when they try to assist each other.

The difference between the two comes down to the collaborative mentality you instill in your employees. Unfortunately, the initiatives put in place to foster this collaborative mentality do little to enhance teamwork because all they do is facilitate interaction. Interaction alone doesn’t improve teamwork. Solid connections are the answer. Here’s how.

Team building activities vs. Transfer of information: The playing of childish and mindless games does not result in effective teamwork. But the traffic of vital information, such as personality styles, performance metrics, and the sharing of ideas, always does.

Values statements vs. Performance-based incentives: A selection of words on a sheet of paper does not encourage an employee’s values to change. But linking collaborative efforts to performance reviews is a reward that entices people to act that way.

Meet and greets vs. Meaningful discussions: Introducing employees to stakeholders within the team is not sufficient for team cohesion. But making sure that deep conversations are held where thoughts and experiences are exchanged is a step in that direction.

Hiring technical stars vs. Recruiting collaborative souls: Adding a new person to the team who is technically proficient may be great from a knowledge perspective. But adding someone who fits in culturally and generously is better from a teamwork perspective.

It’s only through a lack of connection that candles (and teamwork) become extinguished.

 

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