A Good Dose of Teamwork

These thoughts on teamwork were shared in a keynote address to the Zonta District 5 Governor’s Conference on October 15, 2021.

To begin sharing my thinking on teamwork and collaboration, I offer this African proverb: “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.” We can go faster when we don’t collaborate; when we go alone.  But we will not reach the greatest distance, and the journey will not be as rich, as when we choose to involve others, when we seek the company and the gifts others bring. Today’s problems are complex and solving them necessitates bringing individuals together — sharing expertise and effort across many.

I propose that teamwork requires 7 “C’s.” They are mutually supportive and interdependent.  The greatest teams focus on these ingredients, every day, all day.


The first “C” is Clarity. Clarity of team purpose and team roles. High performing teams have both a clear understanding of the goal to be achieved and a full understanding of the roles each team member plays.


Collaboration is working together and it is building enough trust to be willing to have difficult conversations in a positive way.  We engage in these conversations with the intent to make the team better. In a collaborative team, individuals feel comfortable and safe saying “I don’t know,” “I need help” and “I disagree.” The most productive teams debate, share different ideas, and draw out unique voices because they know it’s safe to take these risks.


Communication is all about connection and relies on shared understanding. I can’t fully understand your thoughts, your skills, your motivations unless we connect in meaningful ways, truly getting to know each other. Ongoing, open communication fosters trust.  Trust grows out of experience and interaction – by listening and getting to know people as individuals.


Curiosity, another “C”, is about how we listen.  When we have a curious mindset, we are listening with openness. A curious mindset helps teammates work to understand others’ views, and allows them to have constructive conversations. With a curious mindset, judgment gives way, and people come to see that other perspectives are as valuable as their own.


Commitment is the fifth “C” highly successful teams have. Commitment is the choice to keep showing up, and the decision to keep being accountable to the needs of many. Involvement and autonomy enhance commitment. These concepts are intertwined with clarity of roles. What is my role on the team, and what do I have authority to decide?  How much of my own passion and experience can I share?


The next “C” is Contribution.  To achieve maximum contribution on a team, leaders must empower their teammates; trust them to do things on their own without looking over their shoulder, trust their judgment so they take personal initiative. Each team member should feel like their job matters, without ever asking themselves, “Why am I even here?”


Caring is the last “C” I suggest for effective teamwork. This “C” could be championing… as in, champion your teammates. Celebrate their successes. Generously give credit to others. Or this last “C” might be compassion. Have compassion for your teammates. You never know what others are going through. Be patient; give them a break when a deadline is forgotten or a task is not done well. I choose “Caring” as the last “C” because I think it includes both championing and compassion.

Great teams care about their teammates and they care about the work they do. They care about communicating and connecting with one another. They care about each other, so they commit to one another. They care about their performance. They care about what they are producing as a team.

To be a great team you must care about your team and the work you are doing together. If you care, you’ll make time to communicate. You’ll put in the effort to connect. You’ll sacrifice to commit. You’ll go above and beyond for each other and you’ll accomplish more together.


Resources that informed this blog and keynote about teamwork:

  • “What is Behind Greatness?” a video by Tyler Waye
  • “Together is Better” by Simon Sinek
  • “The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player” by John C. Maxwell
  • “Team Performance Model” by Drexler and Sibbett
  • “Teamwork” by Larson and LaFasto