What Makes a Team?

Ed Webster’s story of an Everest summit attempt is compelling: four men, no bottled oxygen, no support crew, no radios.  At times, no ropes, and no food.   During the climb, they lost critical tools, two of their three ice axes.

Spoiler alert:  the whole team survived the trip.

What made the difference?   The team was a “by invitation only” group of experienced climbers.  They were skilled and strong.

They were also friendly, reliable, polite and caring.   Webster calls his team members, “Good people…fun to be with.”   Everyone was working toward a common goal — no slackers, no prima donnas.

And they were fortunate.

Webster’s view of his team’s strengths go beyond talent.  Success started with how they acted.  They showed respect for one another, and practiced open communication.  They treated one another as equals, and showed a commitment to resolve differences.

This video was taken at an October, 2012 conference for firefighters, “Making Yourself Hard to Kill.”   Many attendees were also military service members, or veterans.

Two days later, many of the participants were responding to Sandy.

Most of us will never experience the forces of nature in the way that firefighters or mountaineers do.  What we have in common, though, is greater than what divides us.

The values and qualities Ed Webster describes in his survival story are the same ones that you’ll find on a functional team.  In any workplace.

Webster chose the natural world, and his love for mountaineering, as a path for his personal development.

The world we meet in the workplace may not fit our idealized view of “nature.”  Yet the very phrase “human nature” speaks the truth for us:  anywhere we encounter people, we’re tangling with the natural world.

When we choose to engage nature, even at the office, we will find the very opportunity that Ed Webster finds in the mountains.

We can learn and test ourselves.  We can become better people.

And when we study the characteristics of other great teams, and embody them, we might succeed, as Webster’s team did: their summit bid was a success.

And years later, they’re still friends.

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