Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Power of Teamwork

By Julie Rahm

Yesterday our town had a fun, entertaining and community-bonding event – the Dragon Boat Races. Nine teams of 20 people paddled Dragon Boat canoes on the Neuse River. The teams came from businesses, non-profits and neighborhoods. In addition to racing, each team decorated their team tent and raised money for their favorite charities.

As I watched the teams prepare to race, I observed their varied mindsets. Most people expected the winning team to be the one from our local Health Club. Their team members were the most physically fit and they had practiced the most. But that team did not even make the top three. The winning team, Paddle Mania from Deaton Yacht Service, won the event by five seconds – a huge margin. What made this team so much better performing than the eight others? After all, they had only practiced together for one hour the evening before the race, none of the team members had paddling experience, and the team of men and women spanned three generations. The winning difference was that the team worked together. In Dragon Boat racing, synchronicity breeds speed. Togetherness was the key ingredient. Despite the varying weights and strength capabilities of their members, with each drum beat, 20 paddles stroked through the water as if they were connected and automated. Everyone on the team appeared to like and respect each other. Their chemistry was electric. While they all hoped to win the race, their most important aspect of the day was working well together and having fun.

Unlike the winning Paddle Mania team, the other slower teams behaved like 20 individuals. They had members whose mindsets were tilted off balance by negative thoughts toward other teams and even toward members of their own teams who they thought were not good enough. There was some minor trash-talking as if it were part of a winning strategy. Trash talking can be fun and entertaining. However, while a member of a team, it is generally detrimental to a winning performance because it creates negative energy and directs one’s focus away from their team.

So the next time you find yourself on a team, whether at work, at home or for fun, remember to bring your metaphorical tool kit. Use your metaphorical level to ensure your thoughts are off of competition and in balance. Use your metaphorical pliers to pluck out thoughts of criticizing others and keeping others down in order to raise yourself up. Let your metaphorical plumb bob point to respecting your teammates, cooperating with each other, doing your best and having fun. Achieving your goal and “winning” follow. And remember to measure your progress with your metaphorical measuring tape!

The rest of the story...
The rest of the story is that my husband, John, paddled with Paddle Mania and his friends at Deaton Yacht Service. I delighted in seeing them pull away from the pack with Grandmother Deaton drumming their paddling rhythm from the front of the boat and Granddaughter Deaton paddling at the back. Small town living agrees with me!

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