Ezine Header

2007: Issue 4


Within the upcoming week, David and I will have the bittersweet moment of watching our final high school athletic event as a parent of one of the student athletes and Shawn will be playing in his last competitive high school basketball game. Some good games, some not so good. Some where the teamwork was outstanding, and some where that was not the case and the end results reflected such. Regardless, I am hoping he takes with him the myriad of lessons he has gained from his athletic experiences to apply to his unfolding life as I do the same from my spectator experiences.

Teamwork. A common word in today’s business vernacular: “their teamwork stunk”; “it’s all about teamwork”; “the teamwork was great and that’s what made the difference”. Perhaps you have made similar statements. We bat the word around and reference it frequently under the assumption we all have the same understanding of what it is and what constitutes excellent teamwork. I will contend that is a false assumption, and is one of the core reasons most teams fail to optimize their performance.

In mulling this concept over in my mind, I decided to turn to the tried and true Webster’s Dictionary and was surprisingly impressed with the depth and breadth of their definition for teamwork:

work done by a number of associates each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.

Let’s begin with “each doing a part”. Whether on the basketball court or in the operating room or at the office, each member of the team has a role, and the success of the team is dependent on how well each member fulfills his role. I am continually amazed at how many times people tell me they are not sure what their role is. With further questioning they can usually describe aspects of their role, but they have this clear vagueness (a bit of an oxymoron) that has them acting with a degree of uncertainty and questioning their value to the team.

“..but all subordinating personal prominence” is the next key and very powerful phrase of Webster’s definition. It is the team’s performance and result that matters more so than the performance of the individual. Does one person or one play win or lose the game? No, yet often that is what we think, read, hear or say. Honestly, this portion of the definition hit home for I am often guilty of congratulating Shawn on his performance at the expense of focusing on the team’s performance and his contribution to its success. Or I praise my client on her accomplishment without mentioning her team’s performance, or the contributions of her team members. Extending praise and recognition to individuals is important, but when teamwork is involved, all are better served if we tie it to the team’s performance.

Lastly, Webster says teamwork involves individual performance that contributes to the “efficiency of the whole.” What every team member does matters. When teamwork is present, team members are building on the actions of each other contributing to the team’s end. Stephen Covey captures this in his 6th habit which he labels simply as synergy: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. “The relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself. It is not only a part, but the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting part.” It is teamwork at its finest.

We all now know Webster’s definition of teamwork. American Heritage dictionary defines it simply as “a cooperative effort”. What is your definition of teamwork? I encourage you to explore with your colleagues, family members and other team mates the definition of teamwork for to optimize the output of a team, all team members need to have a common understanding.

I work with a variety of people who under the metaphor of team would be considered the captain, leader or owner. In essence, the one in charge. We often discuss how well the team is working together, singling out those who are doing a great job, and those who are at the other end of the spectrum. Seldom do we talk about those in the middle, who day in and day out are carrying out their roles, contributing to the team’s success and to the efficiency of the whole, not concerning themselves with individual recognition, just striving to get their work done in the best manner possible. Perhaps I need to shift the focus of our conversations.


If you embraced Webster’s definition of teamwork in your actions, what would you do differently to optimize the performance of your team?

What can you add to the definition to give it more breadth and depth?

How are the individual members of your team epitomizing teamwork?

What habits do you have that are diminishing the success of your team’s performance? Commit to changing them.


Founded in 2003 and based in Roanoke, Virginia, Extra Ordinary Living works with individuals, organizations and teams to identify possibilities, create opportunities, remove obstacles and through deliberate action, optimize results.

Usually the first question we are asked, is why Tiberius? Our trivia friends can often identify the references……yes, Tiberius was the 2nd Roman emperor, and yes, Tiberius is the middle name of James T. Kirk from Star Trek. One of our life mottos and business principles is “to learn from the past, look to the future while living in the present.” Thus, Extra Ordinary Living.

As Professional Coaches, we are trained to listen, to observe and to customize our approach to our clients needs.  We provide tools, support, structure and accountability to help our clients unleash their full potential and optimize results.  The best thing about coaching is it is all about you – the client, and what you want.  We may share our opinions and give you advice, but it is up to you to pick and choose what you want to accept.  We suspend judgment and will support you in your decisions. 

As Professional Speakers, our messages are inspirational while imparting useful, practical and memorable information in a fun and dynamic way to help our audiences live  extra ordinary lives.  

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
– Joseph Campbell

Janet Crawford, MHA, MBA
Professional Certified Coach

A publication of Extra Ordinary Living,  Extra Ordinary Living is written for aspiring individuals striving to make a difference, and wanting to explore, experience and excel in all aspects of their life.

“What we need to do is learn to work in the system, by which I mean that everybody, every team, every platform, every division, every component is there not for individual competitive profit or recognition, but for contribution to the system as a whole on a win-win basis."
– W. Edwards Deming

“Great teamwork is the only way we create the breakthroughs that define our careers.”
– Pat Riley


Janet is branching out on her own. Your next edition of this newsletter will have a new design, a new company name. Janet and David will continue to collaborate on projects and support one another in their personal and professional growth.