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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery

Why Do We Americans Resist Teamwork?

Everyone knows that teamwork gets more done than a collection of individual efforts. Everyone also knows that we Americans are intensely competitive. Why, then, are we so reluctant to leverage the competitive advantage of teamwork?

I've worked with so many teams that struggle to actualize the competitive advantages of teamwork that it's caused me to wonder why it's so hard for we Americans to pull it off.

You don't have to look far. Our country was born out of frustration with too much government/teamwork, so we have a fierce allegiance to individual freedom. American individualism is famous worldwide (unfortunately we're also famous for being loud and obnoxious, oh well).

What is the right balance between individual freedom and teamwork to maximize financial results for your business? At the highest level of government leadership, on one extreme complete individual freedom/anarchy would result in a few warlords running the whole country, and on the other extreme complete teamwork/pure communism would result in the loss of too much individual freedom.

To continue the analogy, at the national level Democrats are in favor of a bigger role for government/teamwork, and Republicans are in favor of a smaller role for government/teamwork. This is a healthy ongoing negotiation that asks the big question "What is the right balance, and what kind of culture do we want?"

Applying these same principles to your business, what kind of organizational culture do you want? Everyone knows that you'll get exactly what you reward (you can't blame folks for maximizing their individual outcomes within their environment). Therefore, the high-performance action plan is to include fair rewards for both individual performance AND team performance.

In this way you can capitalize on the advantages of good old American individualism AND the advantages of teamwork. For example, create a clear career ladder to reward individual performance, and also create a profit sharing plan or similar vehicle for achieving company goals. The net result is that your team members will trust that they can maximize their individual outcomes by helping you achieve the company's goals.

It's likely that so few of your competitors do this well that you'll create a significant competitive advantage for your business. See, American individualism and ingenuity at it's finest!

High-Performance Habits

  1. For maximum business performance, build an organizational culture that rewards individual freedom and performance while also leveraging the advantages of teamwork and cooperation.

  2. Create a reward system that reinforces both these priorities.

  3. Revel in the competitive advantage and financial results you've created for your business!

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