How to Inspire Teamwork & Collaboration“The only place ‘success’ comes before ‘work’ is in the dictionary,” insisted Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach of the Green Bay Packers. “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”

Lombardi passionately rallied team spirit and established a collaborative commitment to excellence among his players.  He believed “the achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” Lombardi insisted, “People who work together will win.”

What is Teamwork?  Teamwork and collaboration are popular buzzwords in many competitive environments. Although sports team analogies are often used in groups to encourage collaborative efforts, they are difficult to achieve without adopting the practices used by successful coaches.

Many group leaders try to generate team spirit without teaching and modeling successful collaboration to its members. Every successful sports team shares a commitment to the following habits of mind:

  1. Coaches successfully establish a vision for the team.
  2. All members of the team have a clearly-defined mission.
  3. Every player understands how their individual efforts contribute to the team’s success.
  4. Every player knows their teammates depend upon them.

Successful collaborative leaders rally teamwork among its group members to the extent that they:

  1. Communicate well-defined vision, mission, and goals.
  2. Identify the unique skills and talents of every member on the team.
  3. Support individual growth of each team member.
  4. Identify ways through which individuals successfully pursue their own goals in ways that reflect the vision, mission, and goals of the organization.

Do you have a vision?  A vision statement articulates the big idea of what you are working towards as a goal. It is a mental image of what you believe is possible. Your vision expresses how you want to be perceived in the world and the legacy you want to share with others. 

Jennell Evans, CEO of Strategic Interactions, explains that a vision is an “optimal desired future state – the mental picture – of what an [individual or] organization wants to achieve over time.” It is an expression of your core values. It should be concise and easy to remember.

Where do envision you or your group will be in one, two, five, or ten years? If you can’t clearly describe where you are headed, how can you expect your team to get there?

"How to Inspire Teamwork & Collaboration"What is Your Mission?  A mission statement is an action statement that reflects your vision. It clarifies (1) what you want to do, (2) who you do it for, and (3) how you do what you do. It expresses how your purpose distinguishes you from others.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, explained that vision and mission statements are “more powerful more significant, more influential, than the baggage of the past, or even the accumulated noise of the present.” Strong vision and mission statements provide you with clear direction.

Does your mission align with your vision? Are members of your team aware of your mission? Do they see its value? Do they know how their individual efforts contribute to the mission?

Align Your Goals with Your Vision and Mission.  Many teams waste tremendous amounts of time because they over-focus on the completion of daily tasks without ensuring their contributions are aligned with their vision and mission. Goals without a vision and mission are like arrows without a target.

Use your vision and mission to prioritize and decide which tasks to complete and the order with which you will complete them. Look at your planner, schedule, or calendar. Are you preparing to complete tasks on your agenda this week because they meet your goals – or because they are written on your calendar?

These tips from my book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide, will help you write SMART goals:

  • State each goal as a positive statement.
  • Set objective performance goals. Use action verbs that can be observed and measured.
  • Be precise. Include dates, times, and measurable information so you can track your progress.
  • Prioritize your goals. Prioritizing tasks helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many goals and draw your attention to your most important tasks.

Commit to Excellence as a Team.  “Don’t succumb to excuses,” insisted Vince Lombardi. He encouraged players to “go back to the job of making corrections and forming the habits that will make your goal possible.”

Commitment to a shared vision, mission, and goals are the foundation for strategic decision-making processes that unite members of a team. This commitment will not eliminate conflict, but it will establish a collaborative focus that rallies team spirit.

Collaboration Includes Consensus.  Building a collaborative vision and mission is more than an all-in-favor-raise-your-hands voting practice. The collaborative process of consensus creates a framework that invites full participation from group members. The more invested members of a group are to the vision of the group, the thornier a consensus process can be.  

Michael Roberto, author of Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer, states that consensus “does not mean unanimity, widespread agreement on all facets of a decision, or complete approval by a majority of organization members.”  Group members may not completely agree upon all decisions; however, they concur to components they can live with.  Roberto explained, “Consensus has two critical components: a high level of commitment to a chosen course of action and a strong shared understanding of the rationale for the decision.”

This SlideShare presentation by Avinash Kumar illustrates how to use the consensus process to make group decisions.



It is not uncommon for group members to show resistance when using consensus to make decisions (especially if they are unfamiliar with the process). They sometimes complain consensus is too time-consuming or stirs up unnecessary tension. Bruce Tuckman referred to this as the “storming” process. Tuckman explained there are stages of group development (or forming-norming-storming-performing theory) that are necessary for a group to grow, face challenges, and find solutions.

I have facilitated many groups as they struggled to use consensus. They quarreled about opposing viewpoints, argued about agreed-upon norms – and eventually agreed upon decisions that included the input from all group members. I firmly believe that consensus is at the heart of successful collaboration and teamwork. 

How to Inspire Teamwork & CollaborationSuccessful Teams Commit to the Process.  Of course, not all decisions within an organization are determined by consensus. However, nothing will undermine consensus faster than leaders who insist upon forcing their own agenda upon a group. Or group members who refuse to participate in the process.

When others are silent, it does not mean they are listening.  It simply means they are not speaking. Visionary leadership and a cooperative environment supports the success of all of its members as well as the success of the group.

The collaborative process starts with dialogue. Invite your team to brainstorm and discuss ways you can more effectively collaborate as a united front. Ask questions. Listen.

Let the games begin.

How can your group build collaboration and teamwork?


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