When searching for the best motivational speakers, find one who has a mind for teamwork, who can teach teamwork and facilitate team building programmes.

A mind for teamwork

When I present team-building programmes, I ask audience members to rank their organisation’s greatest assets. They invariably place staff and teamwork near the top of their list.

Undoubtedly, teamwork is one of the essential elements that accelerate a change from surviving to thriving.

If mental toughness can improve individual performance, and it seems it can, will it do the same for team performance? What would the accumulated benefit be if the individuals in an entire team developed a mind for teamwork? Use a rugby team as an example. What would the improvement be if each member of the team embarked on boosting their mental toughness by around five percent over a defined, strategic period? Clearly, there is a potential cumulative progression of 75%. This is without the exponential benefits of synergy and spirit development derived from team members becoming aware of their advancement.

Improvement in performance is dependent on many factors; one of these is the willingness of the team leaders to acknowledge mental toughness as a factor of boosted performance. My experience has taught me that several sport coaches and business managers recognise the need to develop mental toughness in their team members, yet most want a quick-fix solution with immediate, miracle benefits. Coaches tend to overrate their own abilities to implement mental toughness interventions and can be irrational about the choice of professionals they select to help them.

Consider the All Blacks rugby team over the period of their consecutive Rugby World Cup wins and the contribution that teamwork made to their success. Teamwork may not have been at the top of their list, but as my audience members say, it sat near the top. For example, in their organisational planning the All Blacks balanced a mix of old heads and young legs. Additionally, they made a deliberate effort to get the management team and operations team to work together, encouraging them to pick up any slack in the team as it occurred. This enabled them to operate, when necessary, beyond their personal roles and responsibilities in their preparation and in operations, ensuring they achieved their outcomes, and ultimately, they achieved their intention.

I want to reflect on the benefits of having a mind for teamwork. The most common benefit is a synergistic outcome. The outcome produced is greater than the sum of its parts. Hypothetically, when you add up the contribution of say a fifteen-member team, the effort should be greater than the sum of the fifteen people. If they achieve this superior effort, it means they created synergy. Does this imply that everyone in the team produces a little more? Alternatively, could one or two have produced more? On the other hand, is it that the composition of the team was such that the individuals’ contributions were complementary, like the old heads and young legs example in the All Blacks team?

The most illustrative depiction of synergy outside rugby teams that I can think of is an orchestra. In this instance, the synergistic teamwork outcome is a beautiful-sounding musical piece.

My reflection on teamwork also brings entropy to mind. This is a loss of anticipated outcome. By entropy, I mean the sum of fifteen could end up below fourteen. This could occur because of a host of reasons including poor leadership, insufficient management, a lack of clear accountability and responsibility, insufficient skills, infighting, social loafing, underestimating the opposition, jealousy, corridor conferences and the informal organisation becoming stronger than the formal organisation. The downside of entropy is as significant as the upside of synergy.

The following symbolizes a mind for teamwork:

  1. A shared vision, values, strategy and culture
  2. All know their main and secondary outcomes
  3. The team composition has balanced strengths
  4. They value diversity and embrace multiple perspectives
  5. Members are clear on who the team serves and appreciate the role of internal service
  6. They take responsibility for their clearly defined roles and are accountable for their results
  7. All have a positive sum mind-set and are disruption friendly
  8. They communicate well, are reliable, trustworthy, trusting and respecting
  9. Members grow relationships, do not harm other team members, and rather help them
  10. Under high demand a team member responds with: “I’ll do it”
  11. They provide “want to” teamwork as opposed to “have to” teamwork
  12. Teamwork with partners externally is as good as with team members internally
  13. Members respond positively to pressure doing their work on time within budget
  14. All drive towards creative solutions, innovate and improvise before asking for more resources
  15. They accept that internal conflict is natural; therefore, members take a collaborative and problem solving approach without defaulting to naming and blaming

Like weaving a rope, the team gets stronger as they work together.  Finally, I want to make the claim that recruiting talented people is very easy; getting them to work together and according to the team intention is very tough.

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