Team unity is often cited as the mystical ingredient in over achievement and unequivocal successes, an attempt at explaining the sometimes inexplicable. In most cases, these tend to be one off achievements and when faced with the inevitable set backs and difficulties all teams face, that perceived team unity disappears quickly, often leaving the team in complete dysfunction. The reality is that building a truly united team does not happen by chance; true unity comes from careful team building and strong leadership.

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It all starts with Trust…

Building the foundations of a truly united team starts with trust. Individuals have to trust each other in order to operate as a successful team and most importantly; they have to trust in their leadership. A firm foundation of trust does much to eliminate the personality clashes and displays of ego that do so much to destroy the workplace. Team building focuses so much on the development of trust because without it, there is no team, just individuals.

Did you know?

All teams need a focus to unite them, a sense of collective togetherness that binds them. The military put this in place effectively during basic training; the shared hardships of the experience are a tried and tested formula to quickly bond individuals together to operate as an effective unit under truly testing circumstances. So effective it is that when Steven Spielberg was making Saving Private Ryan, he insisted that all the principle actors undertake an intense 6 week basic training, with one exception – Matt Damon who was playing the part of Private Ryan. Such was the strength of bonding between the core actors of the cast, it served to further alienate them to Damon’s character, exactly as Spielberg intended.

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When you find the right method, it should last…

Back in his days at Aberdeen, Sir Alex Ferguson first employed what was to become his trademark method of providing focus and driving unity in his teams – his famous ‘siege mentality’. By presenting what he felt was the media bias of the press to the two dominant Glasgow clubs, he gave his team the motivation of fighting against unfair treatment and a point to prove. So successful was his technique that Aberdeen went on to break the domination of the Glasgow clubs and Ferguson utilised the same methods at Manchester United for the next successful 26 years.

So, where do we come in? 

While both are extreme examples, they clearly show the need for a strong unifying focus for teams to reach their full potential. Thankfully, carefully strategised team bonding exercises exist to remove the need for brutal boot camps and finding perceived injustices to motivate teams. The measure of how strongly united a team operates should not be judged purely on their successes. Success can be fleeting – the true measure of a team’s unity should be in how they cope with adversity; a truly successful team is one that can cope with setbacks, disappointments and uncertainties yet still remain determined and focused. That’s how you achieve both longevity and success.