What is a Team?

Most big challenges are difficult to accomplish flying solo. It’s possible to achieve great things completely on your own without any support, but it’s usually not the best strategy for success. Pursuing an ambitious goal will more likely lead to success and be more rewarding—whether you reach the goal or not—if you do so with a team.

This leads to the age-old question, “What is a ‘team’ really?” The very core of what defines a high-performing team is this:

A group of individuals committed to the pursuit of a common goal who need each other to achieve it.

This is a bit different from the common definition: “A group of individuals who are committed to a common goal.”


Committing to the goal is easy. Everyone commits to the goal. Who wouldn’t want the goal? The goal is the victory, the win, the money … so everyone commits to it. But committing to the goal without committing to the pursuit of that goal is meaningless.

The goal is something you set your sights on, something you work toward, something you strive for. And for most goals, certainly any that involve sports, there is no guarantee that you’ll ever accomplish it.

What is guaranteed is that in pursuit of that goal there will be times when it seems like it’s just not going to happen, that it is too hard, that it seems like you’re never going to reach it. During times like these, the people who have committed only to the goal will start to lose hope, give up and quit. They will often look for excuses that give them a justifiable reason to fail, something else to blame so they can walk away believing it’s not their fault.

This happens more frequently than you might realize, and you may not even know you’re doing it until you look back on it. Most often it’s subconscious. It’s a defense mechanism. It lets people feel better about failing. If you use an excuse such as, “We were going to win the world championships, but our competition received corporate sponsorship and put the goal completely out of reach,” you are definitely going to fail, even if it’s a justifiable reason and the situation isn’t your fault.

But people who commit to the pursuit of their goals know that the goal will seem out of reach. Of course it will seem too hard. Of course there will be times when it feels like they’re never going to get there. No worthwhile goal can be any other way.

To achieve success, you set the goal and then set it aside. You form a step-by-step plan for how to achieve it, and you go to work. You don’t always expect to make progress in leaps and bounds. You do it bit by bit, little by little. You get up every day and get after it. It’s the only way to achieve an ambitious goal.


You don’t have teammates because you’re lonely and want someone to hang out with or because you don’t have the courage to go it alone when you actually could go it alone. That’s what friends are for. You have teammates because you need them to accomplish your goals and they need you to accomplish theirs.

Most successful people are strong, highly motivated, self-sufficient, independent, hard-working and smart individuals. If they could accomplish their goals on their own without having to count on anyone else to make them happen, they usually would. If they can’t do it on their own, they need a team and teammates who are committed to the pursuit of the same goal.

This common need is what forces teams to form. True high-performance teams don’t form for convenience. They form because they have to, the teammates need each other and they cannot accomplish their goals on their own. This need is also what serves as the glue that holds the team together when there are conflicts between teammates or disagreements on a plan.

For the person who is committed only to the goal, these are all excuses to quit. But for teammates who are committed to the pursuit and who need each other to achieve the goal, there is no quitting. They figure out solutions and make it happen.


Everyone has heard the phrase, “There is no ’I‘ in ’team.’ ” It’s the most common phrase in team building … it’s everywhere. You’ve probably seen it on T-shirts and posters. The spirit and intent of the slogan is good, but in practice the opposite is true. The best teams have lots of “I”s on them.

Most people who pursue excellence in most fields do so initially from fairly selfish motivations: I want to win. I want to succeed. I want to make a good living. I want to be the best. I want to be the one to make a difference.

In fact, teams are mostly about personal goals and rewards. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if the desire toward personal success requires a team, this self-centered approach isn’t going to cut it. And the self-centered approach isn’t even in the person’s best self-interest. Think of it this way:

  • You decide that for you to achieve your personal goal you need a team.
  • If that’s the case, then for you to achieve your goals, the team has to achieve its goals.
  • Then for the team to achieve its goals, your teammates must achieve their personal goals.

So, for you to become the winner that you want to be (however you define it) and if you’re smart, you also need to become the teammate your teammates need you to be. Your success is dependent on your teammates, and theirs on you. You can’t win unless they win. If they lose, you lose.

Often, people who start from relatively selfish places learn this and become fantastic team members who truly care about their own teammates. And they didn’t do this only because they knew they had to in order to accomplish their own goals. They also discovered how rewarding it is to become that teammate who their teammates can count on. They learn how fulfilling it is when their teammates look at them and know they can trust them, count on them and that they’ve always got their backs. Everyone knows the value of having someone who is that person for them, and there are few things more rewarding than being that person for your teammates.

About the Author
FEATURE20126-20Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld, D-8424, is the manager of Skydive Perris in California. He has earned multiple national and world 4- and 8-way formation skydiving championships and has organized numerous world records. Brodsky-Chenfeld is a professional performance coach and authored the book “Above All Else,” which teaches anyone—skydiver or not—how to attain their personal goals.


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