by Jeremy Kauffman
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Andrew Carnegie
The above quote from Andrew Carnegie is perhaps my favorite regarding teamwork. Each sentence has the ability to stand on its own. However, when you add all three together it creates a powerful image of what teamwork can and should look like.
Dealing with and managing our current reality of COVID-19 has raised many questions for me related to the teams within our organizations. Will teams rise to the challenge? Are there hidden “cracks” in the team that stress will unveil? What is the impact of teams that are only able to use technology to meet? What potential consequences are there if our current mode of operation continues without a clear end in sight? And finally, how will teams change and evolve as we return to normal?
As I ponder the questions dealing with the present, I believe the focus should be on the words from Carnegie in his quote on teamwork.
As organizations, we need to redefine our vision. It can be as simple as stating that we want to emerge from this pandemic as a viable organization. A place that put a laser focus on meeting the needs of its customers and employees. Perhaps we want to emerge with a realization that future possibilities are boundless due to our ability to meet the challenge of this crisis. Whatever that vision is we have the opportunity to state it clearly and allow our teams to embrace it together.
The objectives are to keep those we serve and the people who serve them healthy. Yes, we want to find every means to make them happy along the way. But we cannot lose sight of or sacrifice safety for happiness. Our short-term goals, procedures and tasks should be aligned with this objective and vision. Teams can and will rally around these things if they understand the objective. Instead of focusing on “me”, there is a focus on “we”.
The beauty of Carnegie’s quote is found in the last line. Who doesn’t love to experience incredible results? How many of us have gotten choked up talking about our employees and what they are sacrificing and accomplishing during this crisis? Or teary-eyed reading a note of appreciation from a customer or listening to a story someone shared about how they have been impacted by the team? I know that I have.
The team I have the fortune to work with as Interim CEO at a CCRC is definitely achieving uncommon results. It’s not so much that we haven’t had a positive case among our residents and team. Yes, that is something to celebrate and rejoice. But a positive case doesn’t diminish the extraordinary efforts that are being made to keep people safe. Every organization has been forced to reimagine how they do their work. Because of that, people are pitching in to help out wherever they can. Learning tasks that are new to them and they weren’t hired for. Coming in at odd hours or on their day off. Being willing to be flexible and creative in their work.
But most importantly it’s the results of those efforts that count the most. The many thank-yous. The smiles on people’s faces. The notes and words of appreciation and encouragement. Every organization is accomplishing things that may not have seemed possible when we embarked on this wild journey.
I don’t know how this will end. I’m not wise enough to know what the impact this crisis will have on our teams. Will the strain have long-term affects? Or will they emerge better than ever? There will be many studies done to evaluate how we handled COVID-19 and what can be learned to benefit our world, communities, organizations, and teams moving forward. The MHS team is already thinking about how we can help members de-brief and use this experience to fuel future growth and success. However, maybe it’s just a matter of returning to the words of Andrew Carnegie. Possibly we just need to continue our focus on teamwork with a common vision, clear objectives and incredible results.