Teamwork – There is no “I”

In November of 2012, I wrote a blog post about the culture associated with Tough Mudder– the obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie (see A Muddy Corporate Culture). I also discussed the need to understand the culture of your organization.

This past November, I participated in my first GORUCK Light. Fellow Georgetown alumnus, Jason McCarthy is a Special Forces veteran and launched GORUCK events to prove the quality and durability of the rucksacks he was selling. The story of how Jason built this company is very interesting, especially for entrepreneurs (or entrepreneur-in-training). Here is a brief description of the GORUCK Light event:

GORUCK Light is an introduction to the team-based training found in Special Operations. Your class will consist of up to 30 participants (aka members of your new GORUCK family). One Cadre, an experienced member of Special Operations, will teach leadership as your class overcomes adversity to become a team. (Team being a very important word. GORUCK Light is a team event, never a race). GORUCK Light takes place over 4-5 hours, and you will cover roughly 7-10 miles. You will also smile. A lot. We promise.

Like, Tough Mudder, GORUCK has it’s own very interesting culture, but in today’s post, I am going to focus on the “teamwork” aspect of GORUCK. The brief description above only tells part of the story.  Let me set the scene. . . the day of the race, I show up in the dark at 6 a.m. at Rose Park in Washington, D.C. There, I find thirty other people waiting to see what this day has in store. We started the morning with a healthy dose of calisthenics before we start running through the streets of D.C.

GORUCK Class #133

GORUCK Class #131
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. – Nov 2, 2013
(I am 2nd from left, back row)

About an hour into the event, Class 131 is given it’s first assignment. We have thirty minutes to find Washington Circle Park and report the following: 1) number of benches; 2) number of entrances; and 3) information about the statue in the park.   It sounds simple, but to navigate 30 people through the streets of a major urban center with car traffic to an unknown location and retrieve the required information within a time limit requires a tremendous amount of teamwork. This was only the first of many challenges throughout the day that required this group of thirty people, most of whom had never met each other before that day, to work as a team.

Teamwork is very difficult to teach in a classroom or learn from a book. The most effective lessons are taught and learned through experience such as team sports, the military or other group-based projects or activities. While it is difficult to teach, teamwork is absolutely essential for success in your career.

The next time you are part of a team at work, answer these questions:

  • What are the team dynamics? How do team members interact with one another?
  • What roles do people play? Do people play the same roles on different teams or do they change based on the task or team?
  • What role do you play on the team? Does your role change based on the task or members of the team? Are you helping the team or hindering it?
  • Is the communication among the team effective? Does everyone know what they are supposed to do?
  • Did the team achieve its goal or mission?

The last question above is the most important, “Did the team achieve its goal?” After all, the team succeeds or fails together. If the team did not achieve its goal, what can you do differently next time– take on a different role? communicate better? Are you helping the team or hindering it?

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