Create a Culture of Cooperation

08.01.2021 |

Episode #7 of the course How to lead in tough times by Frank McKinley


There’s no such thing as an army of one.

And there’s no “I” in the team either.

Coach John Wooden led his teams to more championships than any other college basketball coach in history.

What was his secret?

He summed it up in these few words:

It takes ten hands to make a basket.

He knew that a culture of cooperation was not just desirable, it was essential. There were no stars on his teams. Everyone had a job, and every job mattered. They didn’t play for the sole purpose of winning, but when they played together, they won far more often than they lost. 

How can you create a culture of cooperation for your team?

Here are four things you can do.


Make Collaboration a Priority

Wooden knew his team would need to play the same game to win.

Basketball was the big picture. Each player played a part and that was what he practiced and perfected. Do the fundamentals well, and the rest will fall into place.

Since the bigger work was divided among the players, each one had to perform at his best to win for the team. This takes the burden of knowing everything off one person. The only way to win is to lock arms.


Keep Everyone Connected

Today’s workplace is unconventional. Your team might share an office or be spread across the globe.

What unites you is your mission.

Make sure your people can communicate freely. Be available to help when they need you. Give them the tools they need to do their jobs and provide training to help them be their best.

Write standards for processes so everyone knows what’s expected and new hires can easily learn the ropes.


Give Good Feedback Often

When something goes wrong, we rush to fix it. But when someone does something right, why do we act like it doesn’t matter?

Giving good feedback means you treat the good and bad equally. Encourage good behavior with praise and you’ll get more. Correct mistakes quickly and you’ll keep them from happening again.

Praise people publicly. Be specific. And don’t play favorites.

Correct people privately. If there’s a lesson to share, do so without naming names, if you can.

In NLP, they say there is no failure, only feedback. You always get results from whatever work you do. How do they measure up? Are they moving you forward? Or are you veering off track?

Feedback is a call to stay the course.


Share Experiences

Nothing bonds like spending time together.

If you can gather, have a meal. Share coffee. Play a game. It really doesn’t matter what you do so long as you do it together.

Joining others in the same cause builds a tribe. When you see yourself as part of a group, you’ll work to further the cause.

A cause can be a shared goal, an improvement you want to make in the world, or a project you need to complete. The purpose is a powerful driver.

Shared purpose drives even harder.


Lock Arms Now

Do you have a culture of cooperation?

If not, create one now.

It can start with a community coffee pot. Maybe you buy the team lunch once a month. Set a shared goal where everyone’s participation matters (and everyone is rewarded for winning).

If you want a strong team, cooperation is essential. Start with bonding, and teamwork will naturally grow from that.

Voluntary cooperation is easier to maintain than forced teamwork.

Next time we’ll learn another skill essential to a strong team—delegation. Until then, lead well!


Recommended book

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James Kouzes


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