anatomy of team

Over the summer, there’s been a music video that has gone “viral”, racking up well over 40 million youtube views in just four weeks, and collecting imitations, live performances on US television shows and more.

It’s five people (a Canadian band called Walk off the Earth) playing a cover version of Gotye’s “Somebody that I used to Know”.  And yep, they’re all playing on the one guitar. If you haven’t seen it, take a look:

Now I’m no musician, so I don’t know technically how hard it is to do what Walk off the Earth have done, but I find it impressive, compelling even.

And as I watch, I can’t help but admire the teamwork that’s going on in this clip.  Read on for a few lessons on teamwork from Walk off the Earth.

Everybody plays a part. Everybody in a team has a part to play. Understand your part, how it contributes to the whole and be confident that your part matters. And value the part that each team member plays.

All parts are important, but not all are equal. In a teamwork environment, there are different parts, different roles to play. Each is critical. Whether you’re providing the lead vocal or the backup harmony, banging out the chords or adding the little highlights that give depth, the part you play is important.  If you don’t bring your part to the table, the result will be less. Don’t underestimate your role, or that of each of your team members (even the less obvious ones).

Teamwork can be close. When you’re working in a team environment, it means working closely with the people around you (sometimes physically, as in the video). It’s critically important to do what you need to so that there is  space for each other to get the job done.  Sometimes that means being a little cramped, or out of your personally preferred position of way of being.  But it’s a team thing, not a solo performance. Walk off the Earth describe the production of this clip as hot, sweaty and smelly.  Teamwork sometimes puts us in uncomfortable places.

Not everybody is active all the time. In any teamwork there are times when the emphasis moves from one person to another, when the critical task passes along the team. Sometimes you’ll be flat out, with the whole team waiting on you, and sometimes the pressure will ease off while another takes the lead.  You’re still part of the team, your presence and commitment are necessary.

You have to trust your team mates. Teams dont’ function without trust. Trusting your partners to do their job, giving them the space (and respect) so that they can, leaning on them for the support you need.  Could we go so far as to say that mutual trust is the most important ingedient in successful team?

Imagination rules. Imagination is so central to much of what lies before us – no matter your field of endeavour.  It’s true in teamwork as well.  Imagination lets us find and explore new ways of working together; combining skills in ways that nobody has ever thought of before; reaching new and unexpected outcomes.  Imagination matters, so let yours run riot.

Teamwork takes practice. Working effectively doesn’t always come naturally, easily or quickly. Sometimes it takes determined effort. Walk off the Earth have worked together for 6 years before producing this song, spent 14 hours and 26 takes to get right and describe the experience as at times being frustrating.

A long time ago, a wise man named Paul wrote something a little bit similar about the nature of team and community.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body…

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “because I am not a hand, I don not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body where an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as God wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  (1 Cor 12:12-27)

Whether you’re thinking about a church community (or team) as you read this, or a professional situation, a sporting team or a family, there’s something here for us to think about.

If you’re leading a team, how do you help your team members get to grips with what it means to be good together?

What else do you know about teamwork?  What else can you spot in this clip to teach others? Leave a comment and share it with us all….


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