The New Meaning of Team Work

The New Meaning of Team Work

Teamwork means a lot more than a squad of cheerleaders motivating the fans at the local college football game. Try to visualize the most dedicated, full time, the fully trained and fully committed team you can. What do you see in your mind?

I recently finished reading a book titled Top Gun on Wall Street by Jeffery Lay. What a read! Being a pilot for the past 50 years and having 3 other pilots on our staff here at Performance Strategies made this a particularly good read because in this book Lieutenant Commander Lay speaks to the spirit and purpose of the world of Navy Aviators. Having served in the US Air Force myself, I had a keen interest in his account of what it took to fly the huge F-14 Tomcat off and back onto an aircraft carrier. In his world teamwork took on a whole new meaning.

In his well-done captivating book, he describes in detail the teams that are required to make a modern aircraft carrier system function as it was designed to do. This floating city of 5,500 is 1,100 feet long and displaces 100,000 tons. But the real fact that gets my attention is the way the teams work to launch his 33-ton strike fighter off the deck and get it back again. He describes the teams off on deck workers who wear different colored shirts to distinguish their duties in launch and landing operations. In order to make this happen, there exists a small army of flight deck facilitators, and each individual has their own role primarily designated by the color of the shirt they wear.

Yellow shirts are worn by aircraft handlers and aircraft directors that shuttle aircraft around the carrier’s tight and chaotic deck. Green shirts are worn by some of the hardest-working sailors on the deck, including ones who run and maintain the ship’s catapults and arresting gear. Blue shirts are Plane Handlers, who work under the direction of the yellow shirt wearing aircraft handlers and assist in moving aircraft around the deck. Purple shirts, better known as “Grapes,” are all about aviation fuels. They fuel and de-fuel the carrier’s aircraft, often on very tight schedules. The red color is no mistake as the crewmen that wear this color are usually near very hazardous things or situations. Ordnance men deal with building, moving and mounting weapons and arming the air wing’s aircraft. Brown shirts are worn most notably by Plane Captains. Loosely equivalent to a Crew Chief in the Air Force, Plane Captains are responsible for overseeing the maintenance, launch and recovery and general well-being of their aircraft as well as the others in their squadron. White shirts are worn by a wide mix of the deck crew. These include many quality and safety observers such as air wing quality control personnel and individual squadron plane inspectors. Now THAT’S a team!

The bottom line is that it takes teams to accomplish big objectives. While a lot of small business operators feel they have most of the answers, the old saying goes that if you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go as a team.

Here are eleven tips on how you can build a team and motivate them to take you far from Susan Heathfield, who is a Human Resources expert. She is a management and organization development consultant who specializes in human resources issues and in management development to create forward-thinking workplaces. Susan is also a professional facilitator, speaker, trainer, and writer.

  1. Clear Expectations: Has executive leadership clearly communicated the expectations for the team's performance and expected outcomes? Do team members understand why the team was created?
  2. Context: Do team members understand why they are on a team, to begin with? Do they understand how the strategy of using teams will help the organization attain its communicated business goals?
  3. Commitment: Do team members want to participate in the team? Do team members agree as to the importance of the team mission? Are members committed to accomplishing the team mission and expected outcomes?
  4. Competence: Does the team feel that it has the appropriate people participating? (As an example, in process improvement, is each step of the process represented on the team?)
  5. Charter: Has the team taken its assigned area of responsibility and designed its own mission, vision, and strategies to accomplish the mission?
  6. Control: Does the team have enough freedom to feel the ownership necessary to accomplish its charter? At the same time, do team members clearly understand their boundaries?
  7. Collaboration: Does the team understand the team and group process? Do members understand the stages of group development?
  8. Communication: Are team members clear about the priority of their tasks? Is there an established method for the teams to give feedback and receive the same? Does the organization provide important business information regularly?
  9. Consequences: Do team members feel responsible and accountable for team achievements?
  10. Coordination: Are teams coordinated by a central leadership team that assists the groups to obtain what they need for success? Have priorities and resource allocation been planned across departments? Do teams understand the concept of the internal customer—the next process, anyone to whom they provide a product or a service?
  11. Culture Change: Does the organization recognize that the team-based, collaborative, empowering, enabling is different than the traditional, hierarchical organization it may currently be?

In summary, building a team takes time but is worth the effort if you expect great outcomes from your small business. Thanks, Susan for the tips! For more on teams check her website.


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Will Robertson Founder / CEO
Jay McDowell, President / MBA
Lisa Walker, Senior Partner

Will Robertson, Founder / CEO, Jay McDowell, President / MBA and Lisa Walker, Senior Partner, are doing business as Performance Strategies, Inc. Our offices are located at 1231 E. Dyer Road, Suite 215, Santa Ana, CA 92705. You can reach us 562-577-7000.  Our E-Mail addresses: and and

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