Teamwork: The ultimate force multiplier

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- It goes without saying that leadership is a primary factor influencing mission success. However, next to leadership, there is another powerful force at work that is equally important – the force I’m referring to is TEAMWORK, or as I call it, the “ultimate force multiplier.” Teamwork is the most productive and effective human activity ever known. Much like leadership, teamwork is an individual skill that must be developed and honed for success. I submit to you that teamwork is achieved and maintained by observing three simple rules.

Rule #1: “Know your role”

Teamwork thrives when everyone on the team knows their role. Knowing your role is more than just knowing your job. It’s about understanding how your contributions fit into the big picture. Mr. Andrew Carnegie, founder of U.S. Steel, defined teamwork as, “the ability to work toward a common vision…the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” His definition holds true in our profession as well. Most of us consider ourselves ordinary people, yet, when we come together focused on a shared vision and perform our roles – we achieve extraordinary results. Knowing and accepting your role will foster teamwork in your Airmen and your unit, you must know your role.

Rule # 2: “Embrace diversity”

Teamwork prospers when we embrace diversity by accepting the uniqueness of individuals and leveraging our differences rather than suppressing them. Diversity goes beyond obvious differences of gender, race or ethnic background. The Air Force defines diversity as a composite of individual characteristics, experiences and abilities consistent with Air Force Core Values and the Air Force Mission. Diversity promotes creativity and innovation, which ultimately nurtures teamwork. By contrast, teams that lack diversity will find it difficult to devise innovative solutions. When team members approach problems in the same way or draw on similar experiences, they tend to produce the same limited conclusions. Dismissing or diminishing differences can have a damaging impact to a team. Individuals may feel devalued, disrespected, resentful and demotivated. As leaders, we must create a culture of inclusion where every team member is valued. You must embrace diversity.

Rule #3: “Be committed”

Lastly, I’m stating the obvious, but individuals must be committed to the team to achieve teamwork. There is a big difference between being interested in the team and being committed to the team. Your commitment is demonstrated by your effort, your attitude and your selflessness. When you’re committed, you support your team even when you disagree with decisions. When you’re committed, you maintain a positive attitude even when you encounter conflict. When you’re committed, you make sacrifices of yourself for the benefit of the team. For teamwork to happen, you must be more interested in your team than yourself. You must be committed.

Teamwork doesn’t just happen because we work in the same office or because we wear the same uniform. Teamwork happens when individuals know their role within the team and perform to the best of their ability. It happens when the team embraces the diverse talents and experiences of each individual and understands these differences make the team stronger, not weaker. It happens when individuals are committed to the team and to the organization. That’s when teamwork happens. That’s why I consider teamwork to be the ultimate force multiplier.