Working together. Beautifully
The difference between getting things done — and doing something extraordinary
Human beings create amazing things.
We build vessels to explore the unexplored. We engineer tiny machines that can keep our organs working when our bodies can’t. And we teach robots how to use artificial intelligence to do everything from deliver mail to save lives.
Launching a rocket
We can do all these things because we have an intrinsic, timeless ability — to work together.
But the funny thing is, for all the new jobs, processes and technologies, our ability to work together can still pale in comparison to some of nature’s finest examples of teamwork.
Watch a murmuration of starlings for five minutes, and you’ll see a seamless, wordless, beautiful cooperation between hundreds (and sometimes even hundreds of thousands) of birds. Tell five humans the printer’s not working, and watch them freak out.
Our ability to work together has enabled the creation of incredible things.
But what do we need to work together beautifully?
There are something like 100 million companies in the world.1 Companies full of teams that are trying to make great products, deliver useful services and work through problems that matter to the rest of us.
two boys and a girl
But try as they might, not all teams are the same. Some teams just work together. The best teams do more than that. They have more fun, they get more done and they accomplish things that no one else could.
three girls
Sure, they argue about process and timings and keeping each other in the loop. But they also fight to do what’s right for their customers and colleagues and businesses.
They stay in late to respond to customer service tickets. They sort-of-sing happy birthday at each other and get way too excited about free cake. They spend days and weeks and years together. They push themselves to become better at what they do so they can become greater than the sum of their parts.
We’ve worked with thousands of teams so this is something we think about all the time.
And to us, it comes down to three simple things: Transparency, trust and a total commitment from everyone to roll their sleeves up.
All of these are simple traits – but they aren’t easy to foster.
01
Transparency
Nothing ruins a shared vision like an information silo. The most effective teams know exactly what they’re aiming for and what’s happening around them – or know how to find out.

When David Seigel was CEO of Investopedia, he brought in a policy of complete transparency. Every worker could access every report, join any metric meeting, sign up to any email list.2

In three years as the CEO of Investopedia, I came to understand that smart decisions are made based on data and that the greatest reason for disagreement in organizations is the asymmetrical access to reports.

David Seigel,
Investopedia CEO

Total transparency means sharing the good and the bad — even when it’s uncomfortable. John Mulally, widely thought of as the saviour of Ford, knew that sharing the bad meant the problem got fixed.3 That facing down the sweaty-palmed horror of showing your failings made things better, not worse.

We celebrate every issue that one might consider to be a problem. When you're off plan or something happens, we celebrate that as a gem. Meaning: 'I'm glad we know, thank you very much.' Facts and data. The data sets you free.

John Mulally,
Ford CEO

02
Trust
Trust is the difference between treating people like they’ll do the right thing and treating them like they won’t. It isn’t soft and fluffy. It directly impacts decision-making and operational cadence.

At Amazon, it helps leaders make faster decisions when they “disagree and commit.”

If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there's no consensus, it's helpful to say, ‘Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?’

Jeff Bezos,
Amazon CEO4

At NASA, trust helped a complex team of scientists and engineers to land a rover on Mars – 350 million miles away – with an unmovable deadline.

You need to respect and love and cherish the people and allow the ideas to do brutal intellectual combat.

Adam Steltzner,
Phase Lead and Development Manager (EDL) of the Curiosity lander.5

At Netflix, trust sets the tone for how new employees think about everything they do.

Our policy for travel, entertainment, gifts, and other expenses is 5 words long: ‘act in Netflix’s best interest.’

Netflix's culture deck6

03
A commitment to rolling your sleeves up
The best teams don’t just work the hardest. They work the hardest in the same direction. They commit. And they respect the vision they’re all aiming towards.

For instance, the New Zealand All Blacks – the most successful Rugby Union team of all time – are famous for their commitment to the team’s core values.7

After every game, the team doesn’t just get changed and leave the dressing room full of sweaty gear and wet towels. They all do their part in “sweeping the sheds” and cleaning up.

There’s no player who’s "too big to clean". Everyone rolls their sleeves up and puts in the work. Even when it comes to the bits they don’t like, that they didn’t train for, that will never get them noticed. Everyone knows that the dressing room needs to be cleaned up after they use it anyway. So being the ones to clean it shows humility and respect.

It’s largely about taking responsibility for your own actions and not having any sense of entitlement. In rugby, we like to think of it as very much a team sport, whereby your actions directly impact on your teammates’ actions, how well they can play their game.

Andrew Mehrtens,
Former All Black8

A total commitment to rolling your sleeves up means working hard at the things that make the work possible, that make your colleague’s lives easier, because you care about the end goal.

It’s about ending personal glory-hunting, because you’re all in it together. And because to you, a team win means more.

On one level, these are intangible values. But in practical terms, they impact your teams in dozens of ways. Luckily, that also means that there are dozens of tangible things you can do to foster them.
You can give every member of your team more visibility into the big picture impact they’re having on the organization. You can trust everyone to show more initiative when they’re dealing with customers. And you can foster a culture where everyone knows how their hard work and commitment can lead to big (and small) wins for the team.
champagne and confeti
High-performing teams don’t just care about the outcomes they’re aiming for – they care about how they get to them too. When something breaks, they fix it. When the project is running over, they band together to help turn things around. When a customer makes a request, they listen.
boy boy girl
These aren’t just trivial niceties. These are the million little actions that bring teams together so they can do amazing things. A high-performing team pairs the drive to create the amazing, with the innate instinct to work together. So they can work together beautifully. Like the starlings.
boy girl boy
We're Teamwork
And we make software to free the talent in every team, giving you the tools to work with transparency, trust and a total commitment to roll your sleeves up. So you can work together beautifully.

If you like the sound of that, check us out.
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