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The essentials of winning teamwork

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jay Vietas
  • 6th Medical Support Squadron commander
This is my favorite time of the year. Football season is in full swing, hot stove baseball talk is on the airwaves, and basketball and (possibly NHL) hockey seasons are about to begin.

Yes, I enjoy sports - whether I have the opportunity to play or to watch. I appreciate watching teams, especially my teams, effectively execute creative methods to win. I particularly enjoy rooting for a team with heart - a team which will do what it takes to win, never quits, and always believes that with extra effort and attention to detail that victory is always possible. When these teams do win, I become emotionally charged and euphoric. What I enjoy more is to be part of a winning team whether at home, in the office or on the field. Every winning team I've been a part of has these same characteristics: trust, commitment and a desire to learn and improve from other members of the team.

For me it all begins with trust. Each of our teams, whether they are our family team at home, our unit softball team or members of our flight, trust begins with practice. The individuals who make up a team have to learn their individual roles and how they contribute to team effectiveness. At the end of the last NFL season, Peyton Manning was traded to the Denver Broncos. As their new quarterback, he had to learn a new offense and his role in the offense. His wide receivers had to do the same. With consistent practice, teammates build trust.

Eventually, this trust will manifest in shared purpose and action. Teammates will know what the other is thinking and their position when running a familiar play. Peyton Manning referred to this in a recent post-game interview as "building rapport." It's an amazing feeling which is hard to describe. The Broncos now look like a team that trusts each other, which has effectively practiced trust and is reaping the rewards of their team-first mentality.

While teammates can trust one another, accomplishment can only occur when there is commitment to a shared purpose. In sports, this typically includes winning the game.

Successful organizations ensure shared purpose, by defining goals and objectives for teammates. Once committed to each other and achieving their shared goals, successful teams strive for excellence. When the unexpected occurs, they don't wallow in what didn't happen but focus on how to make improvements-- so they can win the next challenge. Each of us must understand the goals of our organizations and how our personal and professional goals relate to these goals. If we chose to be committed to the organization, our goals will align with those of the team.

Truly committed teammates provide constructive feedback to one another. One slice of wisdom I've gained with experience is that it's not how much I know but how much I don't know. I learned that each and every one of us has something to share - whether it is an experience, a talent or a perspective. Consequently, each of us should value the feedback of one another. When delivered and received in a healthy manner, it can make the difference between growing and learning and ultimately success or failure. Think of the teacher you admired most in your life-- chances are this teacher delivered effective feedback. When delivering feedback, try to emulate the qualities of that teacher. More important, have an open mind to feedback from others, and help them deliver their message productively.

In the words of one of my favorite authors, John Maxwell, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

I am proud to be a member of Team MacDill. I'm proud to work with a group of professionals who believe and trust in each other and are willing to challenge and grow together. Here we are committed to the profession of arms and the delivery of unsurpassed airpower.