It is that time of the year – to set our New Year’s resolutions. I will admit that I have not set any resolutions the past few years. I have had a bit of a “why bother” attitude since my resolutions had become wishes more than commitments.

2013 is different for me. I am going to set a New Year’s resolution for 2013. Just one resolution -- one that I am passionate about. It is one that I am optimistic about. It is one that I believe in and am committed to following through on. No, it is not about exercising more consistently or eating healthy. It is also not about hitting over .500 in baseball either. My New Year’s resolution for 2013 is “To Spread the Gospel.” No, not the religious gospel. I want to spread the Teamwork Competency gospel.

My son, Sam, is almost 16 years old. Between baseball and basketball, he has played on many teams. Last summer, he played on a baseball team that won a tournament vs. teams from all over the country. This is what he told me about being on a great team like that one, “When you have great teamwork, everyone clicks really well. There is a special bonding with your teammates, like family bonding. Not just while playing but you become friends outside of playing in the game.”

Believing in the power of the team started when I was young, playing baseball, football and basketball with my friends on our streets and driveways in southern California. When I would watch sports on TV, I was always fascinated by the impact of teamwork on sports teams. Teamwork always seemed like magic – different players being the hero at different times. I remember the 1971 – 1972 LA Lakers that broke the won/loss record (69-13) and the winning streak record (33) with stars like Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich and Happy Hairston. This was a special team but there had been many great LA Laker teams that fell short of winning an NBA championship. Not this one. They beat the New York Knicks 4 games to 1 for their first NBA championship in LA. They did it without Elgin Baylor who retired during the season because of an injury. Jerry West was their perennial star – an outside shooter called Mr. Clutch. But he had an unusually bad NBA Finals, “I played terrible basketball in the Finals,” he said years later, “and we won. And that didn’t seem to be justice for me personally, because I had contributed so much in other years when we lost. Now, when we won, I was just another piece of the machinery. It was particularly frustrating that I was playing so poorly but the team overcame me.” After a moment’s thought, he said, “Maybe that’s what a team is all about.” Even a star player like Jerry West didn’t really know what teamwork looked like until he became “a piece of the machinery.”

If Jerry West did not know what it looked like, I am guessing many corporate leaders don’t know what it would look like on their teams either. There are many corporate efforts to build teams – personality profiles, team outings (golf, paint ball, cooking, etc.), ropes/challenge courses, team simulation exercises, etc. The motivation for these efforts are often because team members are not getting along. The idea is that if people get along better, then they will achieve more. Getting along and getting results do not always correlate. That is not saying that getting along well is not a part of teamwork but there is more to it than just that. For leadership teams to accomplish better results like the 1971 – 72 LA Lakers did by working as a team, they need to be competent at working together as a team.

Why would it be any different in the corporate world? How could a manufacturing company expect to produce top tier profitability when the VP of Engineering and VP of Production don’t have a productive working relationship? How could a professional services firm expect to maximize its revenue per client when the lead Audit partner and the lead Litigation services partner do not collaborate on a plan to deliver services in a comprehensive manner?

I have observed (since I founded Goodfriend & Associates 23 years ago) that leadership teams especially struggle with what working as a team looks like for them. They might know it when they see it but don’t know how to create it. Teamwork should be seen as a system where a team can build that system around a set of collective competencies in working together. As many of you know, back in 2010, I developed TeamScene™ – A Teamwork Competency Model For Leadership Teams, to help teams develop the collective behaviors and processes that increase teamwork competency. Those leadership teams that are competent at teamwork are more productive, are better leaders and accomplish better results.

Effective teamwork on leadership teams should not be an exception. It should be the norm. Teamwork can’t just be a “nice-to-have.” It should be unacceptable to allow the team’s results to decline or languish because of unproductive behaviors, poor working relationships, not supporting a plan/decision in front of direct reports, etc. Teamwork competency should be something that leadership teams strive to improve – to make teamwork profitable. Teamwork competency is a collective, team skill to help add to business results accomplished in functional/unit silos.

Is Teamwork A Strategic Advantage For Your Leadership Team?

In 2012, I gave a one to two hour presentation on this topic at a number of meetings and conferences for the Houston CPA Society, the Project Management Institute, The Birkman Method Users Conference, Vistage International, HR Houston, the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers, Institute of Supply Management and the Financial Executives Networking Group. The presentation was well received at these meetings and it led to a number of presentations at medium size to large corporations as well as clients. Some of the comments from the speaker evaluations included, “Great presentation, logical approach”, “Best presentation of the day” and “Enjoyable, interactive learning experience with great video clips and audience participation.“ But the comment that helped validate my desire to spread this gospel was “It wasn’t sexy but it had teeth.”

More importantly, the comment captured what I believe is my purpose. Although I want audience members to recommend me to give this presentation at their company or to help a leadership team improve their teamwork competency, that is not my higher purpose. I also don’t believe my higher purpose is to make teamwork sexy or magical. My son described team chemistry that naturally occurs. It’s great when that occurs but I have found that natural occurrences of team chemistry are very few and far between in the corporate world. Leadership teams shouldn’t be waiting around for team chemistry to occur. Teamwork competency improvement can occur with a system of processes and behaviors.

My higher core purpose is “Making Teamwork Profitable.” This process should be intentional – requiring discipline, execution and follow-through. I am often asked for a proposal to work with a leadership team to help them improve how they work together because team member relationships lack trust or have poor communication. Most team members believe that the relationship decline is permanent and will never get better. It is NOT consistent with my core purpose to help those team members get along better. It IS consistent with my core purpose to help team members produce better results as a relationship-pair. If that success leads those team members to get along well, then so much the better. Unfortunately, I have seen many relationship-pairs that get along well that are not maximizing their collaborative results.

For example in an HR Leadership Team, an HR Manager who is the generalist assigned to the largest business unit and the Compensation Manager had a very poor relationship. The HR Leadership Team needed the two to work together better to improve retention of their top people in that business unit. That makes teamwork profitable. Another example is a VP of Finance and a VP of Sales/Marketing with difficulties in their working relationship that was causing disruption in the execution of sales orders. The two members have been working on their working relationship over the last few months to help the organization shift from a centralized organizational structure to a regional model. The two members have been collaborating on requirements in a regional model for planning, risk assessment, clarification of authority levels, allocation of resources, process design, ownership over controls, etc. This collaboration by these team members is making teamwork profitable.

Making Teamwork Profitable is not just about improving working relationships. It could also be about the top 25 managers in a strategic planning having a vigorous debate about selecting the top priority cross-functional initiatives for the coming year. Members had the opportunity to make their case, either for or against, the prioritization of time and resources towards initiatives that will have the greatest impact in 2013. A vigorous, depersonalized debate of the pros and cons of possible initiatives gave team members the opportunity to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each initiative before they influence the top executives as to what initiatives would have greatest impact. That makes teamwork profitable. A leadership team, in their weekly meeting, that focuses on how to collectively bring closure to important challenges that week, helps make teamwork profitable.

Case Study – Improving Teamwork Competency

I was consulting with a business services company. They wanted to improve teamwork between each of the business unit leaders and the sales leaders. Each business unit leader was responsible for a line of service (for both revenue and profits) and the sales leaders were responsible for driving sales growth internationally. The VP who was accountable for this team, wanted these leaders to improve communication, collaboration and trust. We decided on a half-day workshop to introduce the TeamScene™ Model so the team could assess and prioritize the teamwork competencies that needed to improve.

In the half-day workshop, we discussed each of the TeamScene™ teamwork competencies and worked through the factors that drive improvement in that competency. At the end of the workshop, the team prioritized two competencies that needed improvement – “TEAM IDENTITY” and “BELIEVE In Each Other.” TEAM IDENTITY is being competent (collectively) at seeing ourselves as a team. BELIEVE In Each Other is being competent at team member working relationships that generate a business advantage. When I asked this leadership team about their common team goals, all they could give me was their individual business unit or sales function goals. In other words, 1 + 1 =2 (the team goal = the sum of each unit’s goals) rather than 1 + 1 = 3 (the team goal = the sum of each unit’s goals plus a goal for results to be achieved through interdependent, collaborative or collective effort). They also assessed their working relationships and the results being achieved from working together as relationship-pairs.

These TeamScene Competencies (TEAM IDENTITY and BELIEVE In Each Other) were prioritized for improvement because of the strong, fortified silos within this leadership team. Don’t get me wrong. Silos are not bad by definition. Silos define areas of responsibility such as a business unit or corporate function. There are clear responsibility boundary lines, metrics associated with the work produced in that silo and authorities to ensure efficient decision making and execution. Silos also deservedly get a bad rap when they become barriers to working interdependently or collectively.

The TEAM IDENTITY and BELIEVE In Each Other competency improvement efforts focused on processes and behaviors that led to:

Common Team Goals

• Increase Company Revenue by 20% -- with almost one-third of that increase being from increasing multi-unit revenue of current customers (customers of more than one business unit)

Improving Working Relationships

The team members committed to improving their working relationships by utilizing the Goodfriend Working Relationship Contract Model. Those Contracts included the following commitments:

• Add the largest business unit’s services to the customer self-serve system

• The two largest business units to collaborate on increasing revenue and profitability on an agreed list of 75 customers

• Develop an incentive for selling of services of another business unit

This team is about 6 months into this process so I am looking forward to getting a progress update soon.

The Key to Making Teamwork Profitable – A Teamwork Competency System

Teams that are competent at working together can achieve better results. The following should be considered as it relates to teamwork competency:

• Teamwork competency is a collective skill, not an individual one

• Teams become competent at working together through productive teamwork behaviors, teamwork processes and teamwork tools

• Competency implies that the team will be generally consistent at executing the expected behaviors and processes

The TeamScene™ Model outlines the teamwork competencies for a leadership team. Competency leads to a teamwork system that helps a leadership team increase its capabilities – an additional lever that can be pulled to achieve better results. There is not much limit or ceiling to the potential for business results that a team can deliver interdependently or collectively. If you’re a sports fan, I am sure you have seen teams with average talent that overachieve – because they are very effective at working together as a team.

The team needs to consider making commitments to behaviors and processes to build their teamwork system – that may not be sexy but with “teeth.” Just as with any system, the initial roll-out may be limited in scope but the system can be strengthened and improved over time. The challenge is to include components that will make teamwork profitable and sustain a higher level of results over time. Will an overarching goal for the leadership team that strengthens the TEAM IDENTITY competency be a component of your teamwork system to positively impact the team’s results? How about strengthening TEAM IDENTITY more by incentivizing all team members for their performance against that overarching team goal? Will Working Relationship Contracting described above and the Birkman Method personality profile (to improve the BELIEVE In Each Other competency) be a component of your teamwork system to help drive and sustain team members to improve business results as a result of stronger paired-member relationships?

These components of your teamwork system can’t just be a flavor of the day, an activity to do during a team building offsite or a one-time reaction to teamwork issues. These teamwork system components need to be a sustainable, ongoing process, tool or behavior that helps the team become more competent at working together.

* * *

There is no better time for your leadership team to begin thinking about how to become more competent at working together by building a teamwork system. At Goodfriend & Associates, we are continuing to develop and test our portfolio of recommended teamwork system components in our TeamSceneSYSTEM™ -- processes, tools and behavioral conventions to help our clients. Your leadership team can also create its own teamwork system components. The components to include in your teamwork system is a strategic choice your team has to make. It is your leadership team’s opportunity for 2013 to begin building a sustainable system to make teamwork a strategic advantage.

It is my New Year’s resolution for 2013 to spread the gospel. Make it your leadership team’s resolution to start creating your teamwork system.

Goodfriend & Associates helps leaders and leadership teams increase their strategic advantage. Mike Goodfriend helps leaders and leadership teams as a Teamwork Engineer, Leadership Coach and Meeting Facilitator. He can be reached at 713-789-6840 or via email at

Sign Up for new Insights

From Our Readers

“I loved your article about Team Offsites. I have been to many offsite meetings that failed because one or more of the items you mentioned was missing."

“I thought the insights you provided were thought provoking and on target. You have a gift at taking these "common life" situations and drawing strong parallels with the business world. Thank you!”

"Mike, thanks for sharing, some good learnings and enjoyed the correlation. I will have to use this on my British colleagues."

"Awesome news letter! It made me smile and refresh some great memories I had as a kid.   Greatest lessons in life I ever learned were on a baseball diamond as a kid. Thanks." 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  A clever way to explain and consider the Birkman Method. I appreciate you sending this to me!

"Well done.  Your best Goodfriend Insights yet."