Never Underestimate the Power of Teams


Could working with a team make the difference between hitting your development goals and almost accomplishing them? Just ask a marathon runner.

On April 21, a record number of spectators (including me!) watched the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, one year after the Boston Marathon attacks. Guess what the biggest story of the day was: not the grueling 26.2 mile run, not the terrorists, but the supportive environment built by the spectators, fellow runners, and Massachusetts community.

Even many of the elite athletes, individuals who run in several marathons a year, attributed their notable finish times to the support of fellow runners and spectators and team-like atmosphere.

But why?

Why Teams Matter

I started thinking about what we know at Cleaver about the power of teams in helping individuals achieve their goals. Some individuals we work with can achieve all they set out to, and sometimes even more, simply by committing to the process and working hard with the ongoing support of their coach.

But for the majority of people, commitment, hard work and a great coach is not enough. Creating a support structure, even for something as personal as individual development, can often be the one thing that ensures that someone is successful in achieving their stated targets and ultimately, greater professional and personal success.

In our work with individuals in a coaching relationship, we are continually reminded of how impactful the added team component can be. Coaches will be the consistent presence, keeping people on track, suggesting alternative approaches when something isn’t working, and providing ongoing expertise and encouragement.

But the team component reinforces two of the most important factors that contribute to successful personal development: support and accountability. When any of us set out to do something challenging, we typically jump at the opportunity to connect with and learn from someone who has had the same experience. And having to then keep that person updated on how we are doing in pursuit of our goals is often incredibly motivational.

We Bring Our Own Meaning To the Idea of "Teams"

What we also know, as do marathon runners, is that what we mean by a team can vary greatly by the individual and situation. A runner can get to the starting line because of a training group that ran together through a grueling winter, and that same runner who decides to walk after 23 miles can begin to run again because of something as simple as heartfelt words of encouragement from a complete stranger.

While we encourage companies we work with to consider adopting a team-based model for development if possible, if a formal structure is not in place, people often create their own teams, even with a single partner, to provide the much-needed support they need to achieve their goals.

The bottom line is whether your team is formalized amongst your office peers or organically formed by your running buddies, you can never underestimate the power of teams in driving your goals to success.

Photo by John Cooper Courtesy of Flickr