Pulling Off a Feast Puts Teamwork into Perspective

Posted by Kristin Arnold on November 20, 2008

Want to see the true spirit of teamwork in action?  Take a look at how your family and friends come together for the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  You can see who is a good team leader, who are good team players, and who doesn’t help at all.  You learn who can really make things happen, who just likes to stand around, who can see the work that needs to be done, and who has to be told to put the napkins on the table.

Extraordinary teams have:

A Common Goal.  Everyone is committed to the same goal, whether it’s to bond as a family, watch an exciting football game, sit on a couch like a lump of mashed potatoes, or just to give thanks for a terrific year.  In great teams, we all agree on our common goal and purpose to come together.

Shared Leadership and Roles.  Initially, someone has to step up to the leadership role, providing overall direction and structure.  However, once the roles have been clarified (I’ll bring the bread and you bring the sweet potato casserole), then everyone can provide leadership of the day-to-day activities (set the table, clear the table, entertain the crowds while they are waiting to be served!)  It’s just not right for one person to have to do all the work, while the rest of the team simply sits back and coasts.

Open and Clear Communication.  Great teams listen to each other, speak clearly, engage in dialogue and discussion, and give each other feedback.  They have the courage to say what needs to be said (How ’bout mashing the potatoes?) as well as the consideration to listen to others (I can understand why you hesitate to mash the potatoes because of the disastrous potato-mashing episode two years ago . . .).

Effective Decision Making.  The team is aware of and uses many methods to arrive at its decisions, whether it’s to aim for consensus, command decision, majority vote, ask the team and decide, or the loudest voice wins (Who wants whole or jellied cranberries?).  A successful team selects the appropriate decision-making method, depending on the time and amount of commitment and resources required.

Valued Diversity.  Creating a meal together is really a terrific way to get to know other people on your team.  Take the time to learn about things you have in common as well as their preferences and differences.  Appreciate each other’s strengths and differences and tap into their expertise — job related, turkey related, and other skills they bring to the team.

Conflict Managed Constructively.  All teams have conflict; it’s part of the team development process.  Some get stuck; others move on.  (Will someone please empty the trash for the third time?)  Extraordinary teams learn how to manage these bumps on the road so the team achieves the common goal, while minimizing the detour and not killing each other along the way.

A Cooperative Climate.  You hear plenty of laughter and team members enjoy what they are doing.  Members of the team are equally involved and committed to team success.

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving — and that your friends and family worked well together!

Question:  What have you learned about your family’s teamwork this Thanksgiving?

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