This week, my college roommate contacted me about a presentation that she was creating for her staff about teamwork and she wanted to see if I still had a picture from our collegiate women’s rowing days. If you know my stature; yes, I was a coxswain for my team.
Before joining the rowing team, my complete knowledge of rowing stemmed from “TEAMWORK” posters with quotes such as, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.” However, I had never stopped to think about why a rowing scull has become such an iconic symbol of teamwork.
In my opinion, rowing is the ultimate team sport. First of all, it is very important where you position each member of the team. You want your lighter, less forceful rowers in the front of the boat and the heavier and more dominant rowers in the back of the boat to project the boat forward with as much speed as possible.
The scull is completely balanced when each rower is in the exact same position at the same time while holding their oar at the exact same height and angle. If a single rower holds their oar at a different height, the boat leans to the side. If a single rower pushes the oar into the water at a different time than the other rowers, the projection from the stroke is lessened. If a single rower holds their oar at a slightly different angle as the oar hits the water, the stroke is weakened and the likelihood that the oar will create a balance issue increases. These technical components separate the winners by milliseconds.
Teamwork in this sport is defined by the dedication of rowers to each other. From the physical inertia that this sport demands to the mental strength to master the synchronizing rowing, each member of the scull has a purpose and a responsibility to the team. There is not a single winner in this sport – it is a true commitment of the entire team to persevere to the finish line. The result of this perseverance is a beautiful, synchronized gliding motion across the water.
In organizations, we utilize the word teamwork for anything and everything. But, how many of your actions directly impact your colleague on your team? If you have eight members of your executive team, do you have eight messages being relayed to the organization or do you have a single message? Do you have your team positioned in the correct part of your boat to project your organization forward?
Try spending some time analyzing the technical aspects of your team operations. Are you coming together and operating as a dedicated and committed team? Will your current team persevere with physical and mental strength to cross the finish line together?
When I hear the teamwork quotes now, they have a stronger impact.
Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.
Executive Search Manager