If you think team cohesion is overrated, consider this anecdote from Tony Dungy, legendary NFL coach.
This was in response to a question from the host on The James Brown Show, about the talent of the 2006-2007 Colts team – who won Super Bowl XLI – in comparison to the six other teams Dungy had coached:
“You know, there were a lot of talented teams in Indianapolis. That team was about number five in the group of seven.” (in terms of player skill and talent)
“Really?” Brown asked.
“Yes. The difference was, they were the team that worked together the best. They had that cohesion.”
He went on to describe how they came back from being down in key games, and won against long odds because they wouldn’t let adversity get the better of them, and continued to function well as a unit. He complimented Peyton Manning for being a good organizer, and the offensive coordinator for creating situations that played to all these strengths (no-run offense).
Think about that. Consider how powerful teams of people can be at any task, when their energy is multiplied by working together toward the same goals (rowing in the same direction), building on strengths, and not diverting energy or productivity into side projects or disputes…
James Brown asks great questions, and Tony acknowledged that he sometimes overlooked the needs of the individual in pursuit of the team’s goals. Incredibly, Dungy wrote a leadership book, The Mentor Leader, in just four months – in the middle of an NFL season!
This quote is also attributed to Dungy in a different source: “The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is all about making the lives of your team members or workers better.”
Patrick Lencioni is a respected trainer and author on the topic of organizational health and leadership. His best-selling books “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”and “The Advantage” clearly illustrate through creative nonfiction and thoughtful analysis why cohesive teams are much more powerful, and how they work best with capable, supportive leaders at the helm. I’ve enjoyed both this past fall and winter.
There are many others out there who lift up and teach similar models of inclusive, supportive leadership and cohesive teamwork. I welcome your favorite resources and leaders in the comments!