Team – A group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project.

Team members (1) operate with a high degree of interdependence, (2) share authority and responsibility for self-management, (3) are accountable for the collective performance, and (4) work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s). A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members. (businessdictionary.com).

It would be interesting to count the number of times every day we hear the word “team”. It is one of those words that tend to be over used – not as much as “awesome” but still, we risk losing the importance of the word when we throw it around too much.

In researching this article, I came across the definition listed above and found that it really captures the essence of the word. Interdependence, self-management, common goals, and synergy describe what happens when a team gels – when there is good chemistry. We see it in sports all the time. A team with less talent upsets the one with all the stars. Anybody watch the NCAA Basketball Tournament this year? In the first 48 games of the tournament, there were 13 upsets. Each of the 13 upsets is a prime example of the definition of Team.

We also see it in our businesses every day. We are all faced with unexpected challenges in our organizations – we assemble a team to address the issues and if we choose our team effectively, we create a shared reliance and accountability that enables the toughest challenge to be met. When we assemble ineffective teams we sometimes create worse problems than the ones we try to solve.

One of the common missteps in effective teambuilding occurs when members are not working toward a common goal. Clear definition of the objective is essential for the team to operate effectively. Once everyone is on the same page regarding their team goal, the other steps in the process tend to align more easily. People with conflicting agendas will always make the team less effective. When a team member places a personal motive above the common goal, the result will be diluted at best and unsatisfactory at worst.

To use another sports analogy, during the 2014 NBA All-Star game, perennial all-star LeBron James listed his own Mount Rushmore list of all-time great basketball players. His list included Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson. He also predicted that he himself would one day be one of the top four players who ever played the game. Upon learning of his snub of James’ “Rushmore”, 11-time NBA champion Bill Russell had this to say:

“Hey, thank you for leaving me off your Mount Rushmore. I’m glad you did. Basketball is a team game; it’s not for individual honors. I won back-to-back state championships in high school, back-to-back NCAA championships in college. I won an NBA championship my first year in the league, an NBA championship in my last year, and nine in between. That, Mr. James, is etched in stone.”

Bill Russell understands what a team is all about.