My son is in middle school and decided to play on the footbal team this year. When I picked him up from school today, he was upset. He explained to me that some boys left the gym and locker room a mess during the morning athletic period. For punishment, the boys had to do a "snake" drill and run the length and width of the football field in 5-yard increments. My son was upset because his schedule had not been changed yet, so he didn't have the morning athletic period and was not responsible for the mess that was made, yet he had to suffer the consequences. I explained to him that a team is a team through good and bad. You win as a team and you lose as a team. Maybe his teammates would keep that in mind before they decided to trash the gym again.
When we work in teams, it feels good to share the praise and accolades that the team receives when it does well. But, as leaders, we have to remember that the desire to share also must apply to team losses. When teams suffer a loss, it's a knee-jerk reaction to try to point fingers and shift the blame to an individual person or department. Finding a scapegoat on the team to explain poor performance undermines the spirit of teamwork and chips away at positive organizational culture. Leaders can set the example by praising teams as a whole for successes and addressing poor performance with the entire team rather than just a team leader or a weak link.
Here are some ways to build capacity in work teams so that they are willing and able to share both wins and losses:
Sports teams are excellent examples of teamwork and sharing wins and losses. Translating these same principles to a business organization can foster unity and productivity. I'm grateful that my son is learning this lesson sooner rather than later.