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Individual commitment to a group effort--that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.

Vince Lombardi

We can impact our team for positive or for negative. What kind of team member are you?

How One Person Can Impact an Entire Team

Gregg checked into a Marriott hotel in Atlanta GA and overnight had an experience that no one wants to go through. He shares his story here about how one person got him through a trying time and now ...

Many years ago, in one of my business classes, we arrived at class to be told that we were doing a simulation that evening.

We were put into teams, given a bundle of information, and then told that for the next 2 and 1/2 hours we would be timed in 15 minute increments and that each 15 minutes was one business quarter and that each team was a business and would be judged by quarterly performance.

We had four different teams, but we each had been given the same bundle. It was paper airplanes. A pattern was given of the type to be built with instructions for building, test flights, procuring materials, and so forth. Then the teacher said "Go", started timing us, and left us to our own devices.

Well, it just so happened, that being the mother of 6 boys, I was a pro at building paper airplanes. For Christmas, I had even given the boys a book on paper airplanes and we had made many different models.

I had learned to make sure everything is symmetrical. This makes a big difference as how the plane flies. If it's not balanced, the plane will tilt to one side and fly off course. Or worse, it will nose dive and land inches in front of you.

I understood how to use paper clips to weigh down the nose or to tape the wings. I knew how the different folds work or how to cut and fold the back.

I looked at the pattern provided and quickly realized how it was to be done. Using another sheet of paper, I made a few marks using a ruler and pencil. Now that I knew where to start my folds and where to cut, I made the first plane.

We took it to the testing site; launched it and it flew perfectly across the finish line. The first quarter was over, one plane was launched, and accepted for purchase, and we were in business.

The first quarter, the other team members had just watched me because I had told them that I knew what I was doing. Now, one of the ladies said, "Hey, I can mark the lines for you, so you can go 

quicker." She grabbed the pencil and ruler and I showed her what to do and she started marking. As time went by, she even found a faster way to mark the fold lines.

Another team member, a father, who also had experience as a boy with paper airplanes, said he could fold the first 2 folds for me.

One team member, a woman, said, "Well, I can't make 'em, but I will take them for the test flights, so you all can keep up production."

Needless to say, within 2-3 quarters, we were making almost 15 planes per quarter, and by the end, about 20 per quarter.

Our teacher then told us that no other team in the all the years he had been teaching, had made an airplane the very first quarter. The other teams that night took 3-4 quarters before they even made one plane that could pass the test flight, then they only reached a production of 5-7 planes per quarter.

We were ecstatic. We had beat all the teams that night, beat all previous teams. We went home feeling successful and proud.

The next week, when we came back to class, however, something startling happened. The previous week, as always, we were given the assignment to write a reflection about the experiences of the class before we left.

One of our team members had written that we had left her out, hadn't listened to her, refused to try her ideas, had made her feel unwanted.

Then the teacher lectured us for over an hour about teamwork and that the exercise had been an experiment of teamwork and how we had failed because we didn't find a way to include this one team member.

Now to give you a little more information about this woman. She was the 5th member of our team and the very first quarter as I sat down to make a plane. She too, grabbed a sheet of paper and said she knew how to do it, also. However, she, even after trying for several quarters on her own, still, had not made an airplane that could pass the flight test.

After that, she tried to mark the lines, but was not doing it right so we could not use her papers. This cost the company money as we had to "purchase" each sheet of paper and we had to "purchase" the extra ruler and pencil that she had wanted.

By the end of the simulation, we had relegated her to the position of purchasing agent, of which she wasn't pleased.

At break time that night, the other team members came up to me and all were in agreement that the teacher did not understand the true meaning of team work.

Team work doesn't mean that it is the team members job to make each member of a team feel important, or to make them feel wanted or needed. Rather, it is a team member's individual responsibility to make sure that they are a contributing member and contributing in such a way that the other members will respect and admire their contribution because it is worthy of such.

I was recently teaching a generational workshop when I realized that this is one of the dilemmas in the workforce today. Too many workers today have a misconception of team work.

They played on teams where each member was given a trophy, where each player was given the same amount of game time regardless of ability.

When I attended Elizabeth's 4th grade awards assembly this past May, I was appalled when each student was given an award. Most students received 3 or 4 awards. Some of these awards were so vague that you began to think they were just for being there. Only a few of the awards were truly noteworthy.

The high school had multiple Valedictorians. Of course, though, the students, themselves, know who the real Valedictorian is. Just ask who is the smartest and they will tell you. The school could easily use National Merit Finalist, SAT, or ACT scores to determine a winner.

Can you imagine, if in the Big 8 conference, they said that they didn't want to hurt someone's feelings. Or they didn't want to have to exclude a team so everyone this year was going to win?

The whole concept is ludicrous. This doesn't prepare our children at all for adulthood. In the workplace there are many problems with workers because they feel entitled to a corner office or to be CEO, but they don't want to put the years in to earn the accomplishment.

Self esteem comes from two sources. One, from within, from understanding that all humans have inherent worth. The other comes from accomplishment.

The first is what educators are trying to do, but the pendulum has swung too far and balance needs to be restored. In order to have lasting self-esteem, one must accomplish something of worth.

To be a true team member, one must accomplish something and contribute something of worth to the team.

By the way, aren't there different positions on a team? Not everyone can be the quarterback.

One more thought...what if our team had stopped for a few minutes, pulled this individual aside and just listened to her. Would that have changed the outcome? Would she have felt better? Would the team have prospered more?

I like this movie because it clearly shows the good side as well as the negative side of teamwork.

Use this video for a group activity. Split the class into groups and have the different groups determine what is good about teams and strengths of teams and also list what can be negative.

Then discuss how to overcome the negative in order to have effective, productive teams.

I like this movie because it clearly shows the good side as well as the negative side of teamwork.

Use this video for a group activity. Split the class into groups and have the different groups determine what is good about teams and strengths of teams and also list what can be negative.

Then discuss how to overcome the negative in order to have effective, productive teams.

A Bug's Life They're Here

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