While effective teamwork isn’t necessarily easy today, imagine the amount of effort it took to accomplish the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, on June 6, 1944; D-Day.

The most important consideration:

  • What’s the glue that keeps everyone willing to trust one another and working together?

While most teams won’t operate with lives on the line, the fundamentals of teamwork apply to every organization.

Fundamental of Teamwork

(Author’s Notes: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.)

NOTE: As you explore my moe recent military scenario, consider the stovepipes that might exist within your organization. 

  • Is marketing communicating with sales? 
  • How do marketing and sales interact with operations?

Importance of Effective Teamwork

A more recent example of the D-Day Allied invasion was the raid and capture of Osama bin Laden.

  • April 1st, 2011 North Carolina. Two special operations teams practice a top secret raid.
  • A week later they do the same thing in Nevada. More rehearsals.

May 1st, 2011, two UH-60 Blackhawks take off from a remote location with Navy SEALs on board. They fly for 90 minutes hugging the mountainous terrain to avoid detection. When they arrive at their destination the first helicopter crashes. The SEALs manage to get out safely and do their mission.

In the meantime, the second helicopter links up with a spare helicopter, returning 38 minutes later to pick up the SEALs and the crashed aircrew.

A Blackhawk has about 2.5 hours of fuel:

  • Ingress Route — 90 minutes
  • Loiter during mission — 38 minutes
  • Egress Route — 90 minutes

Teamwork and Cooperation

Perhaps most important for any team,

  • What keeps everyone working together?

When I flew helicopters, we trained for a mission similar to the Bin Laden raid.  However, since we could not do inflight refueling, we relied on a tactical refuel team.

In our case, setting up and running a “hot” refuel point is a dangerous operation that our fuel handlers expertly managed.

Effective teamwork

Effective teamwork is a product of how much trust exists within the organization.  A great indicator is how you treat your unsung heroes?

Roles and Responsibilities

Finally, consider the varied roles and responsibilities of the Navy SEALs, the Army pilots, and the fuel handlers.  First, each team must hold itself accountable for meeting its defined standards.

  • The SEALs learn to exit helicopters using a fast-rope technique, deploying a thick rope and then sliding down the rope as if it were a fireman’s pole.
  • The pilots practice flying long distance exercises lasting several hours so that they reach their designated enroute and arrival points within a very small window of time.
  • The refuel team rehearses the temporary setup of a fuel point, connecting fuel bladders and hoses so that they can refuel the helicopters, then break the site down as quickly as possible.

Once each team is capable of meeting their internal standards, they practice the operation together. Then, they apply the same accountability steps they did independently and repeat them as a collective effort, in an open exchange known as the military’s After Action Review (AAR) process.

Fundamentals of Teamwork

Creating this type of environment where separate and combined teams hold themselves accountable is the recipe for success and gets down to these funadamentals:

  • How do you treat people individually?
  • How do you treat people collectively?

Stated differently, does the leadership team treat all members fairly by emphasizing and living  its values?

In my book Unleash Your Values: How to Lead and Succeed in Business Today … A Helicopter Pilot’s Spin on Developing the Leader in You, I address five areas every manager must consider in order to develop effective teamwork and lead successfully.

To preview my book:

Five Chapters:

  1. Define & Align – the importance of aligning personal and professional values for you and your team members
  2. Lead & Succeed – the need to commit to your organization’s values and beliefs, if you want to earn your team’s trust and confidence
  3. Instill & Fulfill – understanding human motivators and why developing each member of your team will improve your chances of success, exponentially
  4. Relate & Communicate – knowing communication styles so that you can speak each of four basic languages so that you connect with your team
  5. What’s your Gyroscope? – the importance of knowing yourself, remaining true to your values, and the for self-development, so that you stay headed in the right direction and set a positive example for your team