It was the Spring of 1984. The event was Field Day at Kate Smith Elementary in Chipley, FL. It was the time of year brimming with an air of excitement, competition, and the burn of the scorching north Florida sun piercing through the clouds. Each elementary school grade competed in feats of athleticism, ranging from the 50 yard dash to the long jump to the tug-of-war.
The latter was the most highly anticipated of the games, primarily because the entire class was competing at once. Class after class would face off, and families cheered during this capstone event of the day. Large or small, short or tall, each student fiercely pulled with all his or her might. Puffs of dirt clouds emerged as we dug our heals into the sand, hoping for an extra inch of traction. The goal was to win, and accomplishing this required every classmate to pull with the utmost grit and determination. Stopping was not an option until victory was ours.
The tug-of-war was a favorite to many because classroom spats, gossip, or puppy love breakups were set aside for the betterment of the team. We all worked together for the grade level class championship. This meant that we all celebrated a win together or encouraged one another following a defeat.
The stronger, sturdier children were usually the anchors, helping to compensate for the less athletically inclined. However, each set of hands on the rope affected the outcome, for better or for worse. Just one classmate not giving 100 percent effort impacted the level of difficulty and the ultimate outcome in the neck and neck competitions. In some ways, the tug-of-war was as much a battle of wills as of strength.
Lessons learned from an early age tend to repeat as the years go by. The principle of tug-of-war is no different.
A sales target is achieved by a group of sales executives not by one member of the team. Similarly, an HR division may be ranked second, third, or last in retention, employee satisfaction, or the approachability of HR. By and large, the results are the product of the team's best effort.
Reflecting back on the early developmental years of elementary school, my teachers and coaches were right. Play by the rules, put forth your best effort, follow instructions, leverage your strengths, and partner with a team member whose talents differ from your own. And on occasion, it's even alright to color outside the lines. These principles create the best recipe for a team victory, from Kindergarten through the life cycle of our careers.
Remember—team means that “together everyone achieves more” in 2015!
Laura Syfrett is an HR Coordinator for Buffalo Rock, Pepsi. Laura is the editor of HR Florida Review and holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing, a bachelor’s degree in public relations, and an MBA in Human Resources. She is also credentialed as a Gallup Strengths Coach, Birkman Consultant, Six Sigma Green Belt, and SHRM-CP.