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“A triumph of the human spirit” is the way we interpret the performances of those who have managed to tap into a complex source of possible and potential. The human spirit is a compelling drive that exists within each of us. However, you can’t trace it and you surely can’t purchase it. Spirit may lay asleep in many, but when raised from its stupor, it provokes great dreams and glorious performances. Having cultural diversity is currently a trend along with globalization, I believe that raising team spirit has an immense impact on team performance. Simply motivating others becomes old-fashioned and is no longer enough for either managers or employees surviving in today’s diverse environment; When teams, whether in business or sports, constantly struggle, motivation is barely the issue. What is missing and what many leaders and coaches fail to capture is a magical, and transcending element of the human spirit.

I once had a conversation with a sport guru, a kyokushin shihan. Then i asked him how significant team spirit is and how it affect the outcome of each individual, if he can give an example of how and where it manifests itself in his martial art. I must state right away that I determined not push for his methods since the  example left negative memories, but you have to judge. Once a Japanese TV channel shoot a documentary film about his association and proposed shihan to show a training session with champions in extraordinary conditions, when the real spirit of the team and of each fighter is manifested. Shihan gathered over 200 fighters and asked them to train barefoot on the snow in the frost – 20 C.

The session should last about 30 minutes; however, the Japanese producer was compelled to stop shooting because of a camera failure, while a new camera had to be taken from another city in an hour. The whole time that the camera was being transported,  shihan fighters stood barefoot on the snow training for the filming for 2 hours. After the shooting, most of the fighters froze their limbs and were hospitalized. Some could not fight anymore!

 Shihan was very proud of such a victory. According to him, standing on the snow for a long time was a manifestation of the spirit of his team. It is not for me to judge  Shihan, I will not be in his place unequivocally, but there is undoubtedly something to think over. How regularly do we have to take such strides to show strength of employees mind and show their capacity to sacrifice much for the sake of their team, or company, up to frostbite of limbs? It is clear that this is an extreme example, but it demonstrates how faithful the team of  fighters was to shihan and trusted his actions so they performed were necessary and they took this risk without a shadow of doubt. Ask yourself, is your team ready for such deeds, or not? What is your team capable of?

I’ll start with the most primitive, do we know what is the team spirit? What the hell is team spirit when plankton walks with smart faces in the lobby? What is it all about?

Version from vocabulary:

Team spirit is formed when people are united by a common goal, which is more important than the personal goal of each individual team member.

How beautiful it sounds … It sounds just as beautiful as a toupee with artificial hair looks stunning on your head – it will fly off if you pull it.

When a locust cloud hits a snag, some individuals break. But they can be neglected for a common goal … When a person neglects himself for a common goal – this is called a `feat”. Shihan’s story is an exceptional case, I am sure he did it once in a lifetime, and entirely exceptional people commit it. Should your team commit a feat constantly? So, you need to assemble a team from super-heroes. Can you pick up a team of super-heroes, do you like this task? In business, it’s easier to shoot a movie about superheroes and probably earn millions …

A man does not neglect himself for the sake of a common goal in business. He can enter the general goal of the business into his own if he acknowledges that it is beneficial for him.

Does it smell like team spirit?

Well, team spirit is not what it smells like. On the contrary, it is an environment of freedom from the stink of an outside world. Stink of despondency and doom. Team spirit is when people are passionate about the game (read business). They enjoy the process so much that they can experience defeat and start all over again without noticing this defeat.

Team spirit is a state of enthusiasm that enhances focus and, together with it, magnifies the chances of success. Recently, more and more often I have been asked about the development of a team spirit and about the strides that require to be drawn on the path to a common understanding. And I recognize thoroughly that nowadays millennium tendency is that for success you need to have an outstanding team that is super productive and does not lose time and vitality on internal controversies and numerous skirmishes.

I will outline explicitly how to develop team spirit by adhering the GDS (the Golden Dozen Steps):

  1. Even if you are a President of the company, you should not place yourself above your subordinates – Yes, you are responsible to hire wisely, and your subordinates must fulfil your requirements, but this does not give you the moral right to impose yourself above the others. You should be like the climbing coach, keep yourself below the team, guide (train) and observe from the tail – control power of ropes and screws.
  2. Settle down all the differences in the team – Be straightforward about your intentions and assume nothing. Stick to a neutral language and neutral subjects. I understand that now sceptics will begin to say that it is impossible to remove all the differences in culturally diverse teams and I agree. There is no relationship without quarrels, but they need to be minimized. There should be clear rules that can solve 98% of conflicts. And believe me, it is possible.
  3. Encourage ideas and suggestions – I understand that this thought is “button accordion,” but 8 out of 10 leaders do not. Make the effort to understand.
  4. Start arranging team talks – Once a couple of weeks you can go to a bar, OK go to the theatre, have you ever done it? or just take breaks in work and interact with the whole team on philosophical topics.
  5. Consider a reward system for specific tasks or best performance – Don’t be a Scrooge McDuck, even if you don’t have a reward budget for the best employees, shake your own bonuses. This does not need to be done with a deaf face. You brought a gift.
  6. The essential advice is to crave large whiteboards in the department – I’m serious! I do not always realize what to write on it, but it illustrates the main thing – the paramount place in your office, which offers your team a place for meetings. And as practice indicates, you will always find what to write on the whiteboard.
  7. Allow to make controlled relief – Hang darts or a basketball hoop so that people can get distracted from continuous work and relax a bit. Naturally, everything should be within.
  8. Protect your team members – Do not give offense to other heads of departments, and periodically from the highest management. It is clear that this should not be undertaken foolishly, but on those occasions when you understand that the attacks are deceptive, defend and protect your members.
  9. Brainstorm – Tackle difficult cases all collectively. We have the same whiteboard that I wrote about earlier, and we sort all heavy customers and the situation on it and all together. Get Feedback from everyone.
    The most impressive point is that raising a team spirit is always given in different manners. Someone can stand on the desk and twirl a sword and individuals will follow him, but some can do everything, except that they can’t walk on their ears in front of their subordinates, and they won’t succeed.
    Wherever I work, for me, team building has never been a problem. The question is charisma or the golden steps that I outlined; I do not know! I think that everything is in the aggregate. But you should not be amoeba, cold-blooded and arrogant. Show your involvement, add a “strong word” and be honest, people will follow you and you can rally any team! This is step
  10. Understand that any change is hard and perceived with hostility – Building a team spirit is not an easy task and requires a systematic approach. You can start from the top, or from the bottom with small steps and move purposefully and systematically, overcoming all difficulties finally your team and you will create a true team spirit, proving that it’s possible.

Oleg Gorškov

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