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Teamwork ‒ What’s In It For Me?

Written by: Stephen Hinds MBA, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Only by understanding the true nature and limitations of business teams, can we learn how to grow them effectively.

If we are to successfully lead business teams, we must first understand what they are. More importantly, we must appreciate what they are not. Only then, can we can maximize the motivational factors available to us, whilst mitigating for our limitations.

More than 30 years of diverse and deep experience of leading teams, has led me to view teamwork through 3 very different 'lenses':

1. Battlefield Teams

2. Sports Teams

3. Business Teams

The lens, or level, at which you operate will determine the strength of engagement of team members and therefore, will inform leaders in our approach; and in our expectations.

Battlefield Teams

‘Hero’ is a word used rarely in the ranks of the Military (see also Police, Fire-fighters, or anyone who can be called to put their life on the line).

To be clear: Heroic acts are common-place in such environments. However, to the question ‘What made you run into that hail of bullets to rescue your comrade?” In almost every instance, the simple response comes “Because I know they would have done it for me” The respondents appear genuinely under-awed by their tremendous acts of courage.

Internal to their organization, Hero-worship is frowned upon. Preferred instead, is self-deprecation; under-pinned by a deep understanding and mutual respect; for and from, your peers. Those who know, know.

This is a mindset, honed from: Years of selection, training, endurance and development. Doctrinally referred to as the ‘Moral Component of Fighting Power’ this creates a value-set and belief system, where the Team’s needs outweigh those of the Individual; to the point of team members, literally entrust their lives to their colleagues.

Understandably, it would be ridiculous for a CEO of a private or third sector organisation to demand or expect this level of engagement in their organisation. Unless, of course, the onboarding involved 6-8 months away from your family at boot camp!

As a result, many inspirational Mission Statements and CEO annual ‘state of the union’ company briefings can often fall on deaf ears amongst the rank and file of the organization.

“All of one company”, “Think to the finish”, “Leaders eat Last”

Entire industries have been developed around such motivational terms. Such aspirational ideals may look good in marketing terms, but in an otherwise dysfunctional work culture, how often do we see them fueling cynicism and disengagement. Any positive engagement will very likely be fleeting, before returning to the status quo.

The ‘Business Book’ sector is thriving. However, notwithstanding their value to an MBA student, many business education publications are overly complex, or simply mis-matched to the level of commitment (not intelligence!) we can reasonably expect from a typical employee.

Sidenote: If you ever get the opportunity to interview a veteran, take that chance. They will have, at least, above average organizational and leadership skills, and a values-set that can never fully be described in a CV/resume.

And don’t believe they have little to no commercial experience. They have probably spent years operating an entrepreneurial mindset; in an austere, ever-changing environment, in which many of Dragon’s Den’s best would fail to cope!

Sports Teams

Players at any significant level, have spent many years learning and developing the necessary skills to compete. Typically, these skill-sets require a huge amount personal commitment and specialisation, often at a developmental cost in other areas of a more holistic nature.

Motivation is derived from a deep love for the sport; above most other aspects of life. A single-minded, often egotistic determination to be the best – in a very niche environment.

Strategies tend to be precise, practiced and repeated. Goals are specific: Literally – Goals!

Business leaders are highly unlikely to generate this level of commitment in their business teams. You could argue, most would see this single-minded, often ego-fueled, approach to a niche specialism as counterproductive in a complex business environment.

As such, although sports teams are to be commended, their skill-sets are a significant mis-match for a volatile business environment; where teams have to be reactive and evolutionary in their approach. Infinite, as opposed to finite in their approach, as Mr. Sinek might say!

Business Teams

So far, we have looked at what we in business cannot, or should not want to, have available to us. So what do we have?

Having considered the first two levels of Teamwork, we now have a clearer perspective of the opportunities and limitations when setting out our business team-building strategies.

We have to accept that our team members will not necessarily all be guided by a higher calling. Our co-workers have not spent every waking moment preparing for, and dreaming of, the day they can be in your sales department…

We simply cannot expect to generate such levels of commitment or sacrifice in a 9-to-5 work environment as we have recently seen at the Winter Olympics. We have to face up to a brutal truth when trying to build cohesion in a group of people in business. With few exceptions, when the concept is presented to them, each individual asks themselves:

Teamwork? What’s in it for me?

If you doubt this to be true, think back to how many times you have thought this yourself, when faced with management’s latest drive for team-building activities; Bungy Jumping? Not for me, boss!

Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of ‘I’s in TEAM.

The psychological argument to support this is very well described in Dr David Rock’s SCARF Model , for the purposes of this article, we will take them as given.

So, absent 300 years of Regimental history on the line in a literal battle for survival, or the opportunity to win an Olympic medal after 20 years of early morning training, what tools do we as business leaders have in our tool-box?

Is there any one thing that we can do to significantly improve our chances of building a resilient team ethos?

Regardless of industry sector, or size of organization, what do we have available that has the same value as it does to the Generals and Head Coaches?

Well, it’s spectacularly simple:


In any relationship, personal or professional, it all begins or ends, with Trust.

Before we are Directors, Department heads, or Software Developers, we are first, human.

As human beings, we base all subsequent decisions on the initial decision: ‘Do I trust him/her/them?’

So basic. So fundamental. So obvious. Yet, in the work environment, trust is so often missing, abused or simply misunderstood.

We are not talking about a naïve, one-sided, ‘I really hope they send the order’ kind of trust.

It is the authentic, mutual trust between two or more people, where all parties can be honest, heard and respected. Where one can be vulnerable and truthful, without the risk of personal attack, or professional penalty.

When one person knows they can trust the other, they become more open to new ideas, more willing to accommodate change, much more willing to offer genuine support. They will perform better, out of a loyalty to the partnership.

This basic -human - ingredient, can be the single largest ‘force-multiplier’ in any organization; regardless of scale and level. Yet authentic, mutual trust is still seriously undervalued, or even absent in the business world.

For me, this was something I have always known. I just didn’t know I knew it!

As much as I would love to claim this as an original thought, my epiphany came from reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

Lencioni places ‘Vulnerability-based Trust’ as the foundation of his coaching model ‘The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team’ – with a key role in psychological safety in the workplace.

In my 4 decades of experience, as a leader and team member of Military, Sports and Business teams, the 5 behaviors model was my Eureka moment. Where the mystery and magic of team-building in business, evaporated in an instant!

This model allowed me to reflect on the many experiences and teams I’d had, and fully reflect on exactly ‘why’ she/he was a great leader, or why that particular team didn’t function.

I’ll share my thoughts on the further 4 stages of the 5 Behaviors model in subsequent articles and I encourage you to read Lencioni’s book. However, for now, the word Trust alone should be generating some serious reflection for you:

Can I trust my team?

Do they trust me?

How can I make my relationship with the others more trustworthy?

Like power, Trust carries with it tremendous responsibility.

It is not enough to say the word. It has to be lived; to be demonstrated at every opportunity. It takes investment.

It means sticking to your promises. Allowing mistakes to be learning moments. Standing by your people; in fair weather, or foul.

Walking the Talk

Ask each member of your team authentic questions such as:

What can I do to make you thrive in your role?

Is the company doing something that you see is failing? How would you fix it?

The ‘killer’ 360° question: What can I do better in my role?

There are a thousand more, but hopefully you can see the difference in this ‘employee engagement’ approach, as opposed to an all too typical board-level, top-down, direction. So, before your Mckinsey ‘7S’ Framework kicks in. Before transitioning through Kotter’s 8 Steps, or as you ride your Kübler-Ross rollercoaster. Get back to the fundamentals: Real. Authentic. Human. Trust.

Your team may not take a bullet for you, or sell their soul to wear your uniform. There is, however, a much, much greater chance that they will return the trust you show in them by being the best-business best – they can be.

Follow me on LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Stephen Hinds MBA, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Stephen Hinds is a retired British Army Officer, Sportsman and Performance Coach. A former head of HR and current business owner. Now a Keynote Speaker, International Business Coach and Street Dog Rescuer.

Stephen has spent over 30 years leading teams… beginning the mountains of Austria, though many countries and cultures, such as Canada, the Middle East and East and Western Europe. He has now dedicated his life to ‘Giving Back’. Be it rescuing more than one thousand street dogs, or helping individuals and teams to reach their true potential; Sharing his philosophy of ‘Engage at the Human level – That’s where we all live!’

He is an Authorized Partner for Everything DiSC and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.

He is available internationally (English/German) for C-level coaching and Keynote Speaking.

Contact him below for a chat on how he can help you grow authentic, resilient, teams.





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