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Team spirit

The whole can be more than the sum of its parts. This statement is best proven by a synergistic team. It’s maybe not the best example but I like to think of the result of team work as the splendid sight of a religious (or other) festivity whereby candles are lit by thousands of participants. Imagine only dozens of participants of the festivity choose to light the candles. The result is a dull and lifeless festival. In team work, a glowing result is best achieved when each member is lighting not only his or her own candle but is also helping light the unlit candles of other team members.  There is no winner in a team. For the sake of the team goal, those that perform excellently have the duty to come to the rescue of those who perform weakly. Only then can the team win.

I very much appreciate the Ethiopian culture of sharing in good and bad times. For instance, one does not start eating without offering to share with others. Whether the offer is heartfelt or not, I still think it is nice that people offer to share their meals with you. But my experience tells me that most of us Ethiopians are not particularly fond of sharing work within a team setting. I have observed few things when it comes to team work. The first is that team or group works are used as an opportunity for the passive members to avoid responsibility. My second observation is the competitive spirit within the team. I do agree that competition helps to bring out the best in people. It can help bring in sharper ideas and strategies that better advance the common goal of the team. But the competitive spirit that I observed is more on the side of rivalry. One that says ‘I am the only one who is right’ or ‘your idea cannot be better than mine’, ‘I am the only one who is doing their best for the team’. I believe that this kind of spirit blinds one from appreciating the contributions of others. The results are feelings of resentment and the demotivation of team members.

Of course all ideas and all strategies forwarded by all members cannot win at the end. There will only be few winner strategies. It is also a given that there will be members who perform much better than the rest of the team. The key challenge is to accept this. This brings me to my third observation about team work – that feelings are usually hurt when our ideas are dismissed or are criticized. I believe it is necessary to let go of our personal egos when working within a team. In my opinion, objectivity is one of the necessary qualities that one should have to be productive in a team. Ideally, as a team member, I should even be very happy that another team member brought a much better idea to the team although by completely dismissing mine. Would you be very happy if one brought brilliant team strategies to the table by outshining all other team members including yourself? I believe this can happen only if one truly embraces the team goal.

The only thing that unifies a team is the team goal. We might not be able to truly embrace the team goal, but we know that if the team loses, each of us is going to lose. So each of us have a stake. Factors such as our ego can drag our attention away from the key goal. But the thing to remember is that the team is sure to fail if the goal is forgotten.