The Unbeatable Team Spirit

Team Building Malaysia @ Cherating Lagoona Villa Resort

The Unbeatable Team Spirit

Team Building Malaysia @ Cherating Lagoona Villa Resort

The Unbeatable Team Spirit

2.1. Competition or Collaboration?

Every Malaysian is more efficient than a foreigner, but any pair of Malaysian is less efficient than a pair of foreigners!?

In many educational settings worldwide, there is a notable emphasis on individualism. This can sometimes lead students to prioritize self-reliance, and as a result, they may see their peers more as competitors rather than as potential collaborators or allies.

Traditional educational approaches, while emphasizing personal development in children, may sometimes place a strong focus on individual achievement. This can inadvertently overlook the importance of cultivating collaboration and teamwork. By encouraging a balanced approach that includes both personal growth and cooperative learning, educators can help students recognize the value of working together, ultimately contributing to a more harmonious and fulfilling society.

Unfortunately, the situation is no better in the capitalism dreamed of by Malaysians for so long. The free capitalist market, although invented as an expression of justice in action, in practice has a destructive influence on social ethics because it encourages the attitude of “me first, and others don’t matter.” When individuals become antisocial, litter indiscriminately, blast their speakers, or are aggressive, they are just putting into practice the selfish mentality of capitalism.

While end-of-year prizes can be a great way to motivate students, it’s important to consider that this approach might sometimes emphasize competition over the broader educational goals we aim to achieve. Interestingly, those who may have struggled initially often go on to become successful in various fields, indicating that they were not lacking in ability but perhaps needed a different pedagogical approach. But there are nuances in this direction too: individualism can be understood in two ways. One is the emphasis on assertion, creativity, and individual qualities of someone who pursues their interests freely (lawfully), independently, and in competition (well regulated) with others, but in such a way that the sum of individual activities creates prosperity for the whole society. The other way is a complete lack of systematization, organization, or ethics, where everyone does as they please, in a competition where rules either don’t exist or are not followed.

If in the first case there is a framework in which the human qualities of each individual can develop and ensure the progress of society as a whole, in the second case we are talking about behaviors more akin to animals, which turn that society into a jungle. In recent years, we have chosen the second orientation, based on pettiness, narrow selfishness, and short-sightedness, where the aim is not to surpass the competition but to destroy it, and where the individual does not consider themselves to have any responsibility, but only rights – which they usually violate the rights of their neighbors. In cooperative situations, others depend on your success. In competitive situations, others hope you fail.

In our society, individualism can sometimes be more noticeable, and displays of solidarity or community spirit might not always be as common or deeply rooted as we might hope. It’s worth noting that voluntary acts of kindness without expectation of reward or recognition are commendable and should be encouraged.

The adult ignorance of how to communicate and establish useful interpersonal relationships, subconsciously imprinted by the need for survival in both past societal conditions and the current wild capitalism, has become dangerously counterproductive in today’s era. This era is based on divine freedom (a gift from God that mankind needs to make full use of without harming or being harmed by others), democracy (Malaysian parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy), open communication, and information. However, it is also characterized by a ruthless global struggle for resources such as raw materials, energy, and water.

Based on findings from the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS), it was reported that 29 percent of Malaysian adults experienced a mental health disorder. Subsequent data from the 2019 NHMS revealed that 2.3 percent of Malaysian adults were diagnosed with depression.

Current conditions have changed not only at the individual level but also in the field of economics. The modern business environment no longer allows the success of companies where decisions are made slowly due to hierarchical centralization. Success requires speed:

said a manager from General Motors

Centralizing decisions means an additional burden for leaders and is frustrating for subordinates who have to wait for “approval from above.” They feel that “their opinion doesn’t matter,” that they are not appreciated at their true value, and as a result, their motivation decreases, and the company’s performance declines. “When fences are raised around people, they become sheep!” In a traditional culture, the role of the individual is to fulfill the tasks set by the leaders. In a performing organization, the individual’s role is to take ownership of a result, and therefore, to do what it takes to achieve it.

Inspirational Fact: Ever heard that?

Credit: Science Photo Library

Migratory geese fly thousands of kilometers in V-shaped formations. By flapping their wings, a goose creates an updraft that sustains it and the one behind it. Therefore, by making the same effort, geese in formation move 70% faster than an isolated goose flying alone. If accidentally leaving the formation, the goose immediately feels the difference – and quickly returns to the flock.

The goose at the front of the formation pulls the flock behind it, but tires faster because it doesn’t benefit from the advantage highlighted earlier. When it can no longer maintain the speed, it withdraws to the middle of the formation to rest, and another takes its place at the front. All the time, the geese in the flock honk, encouraging the lead goose to maintain high speed and pull them along.

If one of them falls ill or is injured (for example, shot), two companions leave the formation and accompany it to help and protect it. They stay with the suffering goose until it recovers or dies, then continue on their way with another flock.

Morale: If people had at least as much sense as a goose, they would learn something from them!


2.2. Teamwork

Unity is strength!

Due to these serious behavioral deficiencies, it is necessary to reconsider people’s attitudes – especially from our side – towards each other and to promote on a large scale a different kind of relationship, more pleasant and more productive, based on cohesion, solidarity, and teamwork. In the new conditions of cooperation, work and society become much more efficient than those based on individualism and competition, because of the synergistic effect (where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).

Within a true team, or a high-performing community, or a competitive nation, the individual consciously and benevolently contributes to the overall success, without being primarily interested in personal success or glory. Selfishness, dependence, and superior control are replaced by partnership, responsibility, and personal involvement in team (enterprise, national) results.

In today’s era, for an enterprise, a group, or a nation to succeed, it requires the collective input of thinking and creativity from all its employees, members, or citizens – to become more competitive than the competition. It’s not the power of weapons or the number of individuals, etc., that will decide the fate and future of nations, but their intellectual strength – based on the mental contribution of all their members.

A high-performing team is an interactive group of individuals who fully utilize their talents and productive capacities because their ideas are valued. The respect they enjoy increases their responsibility. Good information flow leads to high levels of trust and responsibility. Available time is used efficiently. Each member’s activity has clearly defined limits, which creates freedom and responsibility for efficiently completing tasks. There is a high degree of individual self-leadership, resulting in group decision-making, with beneficial effects on team performance.

These are not only greater than the sum of the members’ performances, but also superior to those of the higher hierarchical organization of which it is part, because a team:

  1. Has a greater capacity to efficiently solve complex problems that require different opinions and knowledge;
  2. Aligns towards specific goals faster than an enterprise or organization as a whole can do;
  3. Can establish its own vision and purpose more quickly;
  4. Utilizes the personal resources of its members more efficiently;
  5. Is an excellent learning environment; it offers its members better opportunities to develop their personal skills;
  6. Can be easily formed, dissolved, reorganized, and resized;
  7. Cultivates loyalty, functioning according to the principle of “all for one and one for all”.
  8. Can control the behavior of its members well through its own norms (group pressure), favoring task delegation.

An important aspect of fostering team spirit, solidarity, and responsibility is providing all members with as much relevant information as possible about the team’s and the organization’s activities. Moreover, “the desire to know always increases; it’s like fire, which must first be ignited by an external factor, but then it spreads by itself”. Well-informed people make good decisions and take responsibility for what they do. The information disseminated within the team must be appropriate, timely, and valued by the team members, rather than wasted.

In a team, members have both official and unofficial roles. The official ones are defined by professional responsibilities, while the unofficial ones are established due to the talents and innate skills with which each member contributes to the team’s activities. Thus, some people have many ideas, others are more calm and practical, others have talent for organization, etc. The team should identify the skills that its members lack, their implications for the team’s results, and eventually how to remedy these deficiencies.

A team’s activity can be improved through periodic evaluations of how the team functions as a whole (not how it carries out production tasks – this is done anyway). The relationships within a team satisfy the following basic human needs:

  • Integration (to be part of a group);
  • Control (to know the limits within which one can safely act);
  • Affection (to be noticed, loved).
teamwork
teamwork

The advantages of teamwork over individual activity are: increased productivity, happiness, and profit – both for each individual and for the group as a whole.


2.3. Basic Principles of Teamwork

Every group of people comes together to achieve specific common goals, known and accepted by all participants. When the organization has a clear and engaging goal for its members, they mobilize themselves, enthusiasm increases, and the prospect of success creates a constructive, joyful atmosphere. Each team member wants to contribute to the effort and success.

The common goal can be achieved through the coordinated action of participants, conducted according to certain rules.

The 4 essential basic principles for the success of a team are:

  1. General concern for solving common problems: It is a process of using the mind, creativity, logic, and foresight of each player, so that all group members participate in accomplishing a given (known and accepted) task. For the success of work and the development of teamwork, it is necessary for decisions regarding the group’s activities to be made collectively, not just recommendations made collectively – and then decisions made by a leader. The fact that every decision made by the team has effects and consequences – not all pleasant – will be felt by members as emotional and material stress, which ultimately strengthens the team and teaches it to act more efficiently. The moral and ethical basis for responsible decision-making consists of the personal values of team members and corporate values. The direction of action is given by the vision of the governing organization (society, company).
  2. Communication: It is the action of conveying information (verbally or non-verbally) to others. Communication has two directions: it not only involves expressing one’s own ideas but also the need to actively listen to others when they express their ideas. Teammates do not make the same mistake twice.
  3. Cooperation: It means working together and helping each other, based on mutual respect and use of the ideas of those involved. Team members know well what they have to do, their work is planned and coordinated, monitored, and controlled. They anticipate problems.
  4. Trust: Each team member relies on the emotional or physical support of others, to feel safe during action. Established teammates no longer pessimistically believe that a new task is impossible (and do not find excuses or reasons in this regard) but have confidence (based on common experience) that they will find a solution. At the same time, they take into account both the problems of colleagues and those outside the team.
teamwork

Teamwork is based on:

  1. Delegation of leadership function, from one leader – to the team, so that all tactical and operational management is carried out by team members, and the leader will only deal with strategic management.
  2. Detailed clarification of the organizational framework, values, objectives, and performance in which the team’s activity takes place.
  3. Democratization of information and creativity: all information will be made available without limitation to all team members; each member has the task of contributing in some way to fueling the team with creative thinking.
  4. Increasing the productive, individual, and collective performance of individuals and the group.
  5. Reducing costs of any kind (production, personnel, training, marketing, occupational health, etc.) necessary to achieve results.
  6. Increasing the level of satisfaction (happiness) both of team members (through fair income, deserved rewards, etc.) and colleagues and superiors at all hierarchical levels, or customers. For example, after completing an activity, the team will celebrate the event in some way. A well-organized celebration contributes greatly to cementing relationships between team members. People also have basic human needs, the satisfaction of which is an important condition for obtaining their commitment and dedication to the common interest. Team members feel the need to be appreciated, so team spirit can be greatly strengthened if periodically members recognize and appreciate each other’s work and contribution to the collective effort.
teamwork
teamwork

For success, a team needs:

  • A clearly defined mission accepted by members;
  • Adequate human and material resources;
  • Clearly established working procedures embraced by members;
  • Common working principles embraced by members;
  • Clarification of tasks and appreciation of the role of each team member;
  • Open relationships, multilateral communication, and mutual understanding;
  • Adaptability and creativity;
  • Good morale and satisfaction.

The mission is what defines the team, the purpose of its existence.

Working procedures are the activities through which the team (its members) will accomplish the mission. An important procedure is how decisions are made in the team.

Working principles establish how team members will work together and, above all, how they will treat each other. The team’s operating rules could be as follows:

  • All team members will always treat each other with respect and dignity;
  • All team members have equal responsibility for the team’s results;
    Team members will avoid inappropriate language and accept differences of opinion;
  • Team members will have as much fun as possible without making unprincipled jokes.

2.4. Dangers and Obstacles

teamwork

However, teamwork also carries enough chances not to correspond practically to the optimistic (but realistic!) conception presented earlier. A team doesn’t function well on its own just because it has been created.

One of the reasons for failure can be the natural and inevitable attempts of some members to deceive their colleagues, working less than their fair share as per the judicious and equitable division of the team’s tasks. This public flaw is called “social loafing” (personal laziness refers to private activity). Slackers force other teammates to make extra efforts to compensate for their shortcomings, thus ensuring that the team’s task is still fulfilled. The social laziness of some causes dissatisfaction among others and can lead to the breakup of the team.

Another danger is the possibility of irrational factors disproportionately influencing how the group makes decisions: hierarchy (the boss is always right), strong personality (for example racial biases), group identity (see devoted fans), national culture (westerners are more individualistic, Easterner more collectivist).

In the process of forming a team, difficulties and frustrations may arise among members because:

  • The guidance given for solving the problems that inevitably arise when forming a team has been insufficient or not understood;
  • Initial expectations do not match reality;
  • The attitude of the participants is slow to change, and the team still does not appear;
  • Participants are concerned that the formation process will fail;
  • People fear personal failure (that they will appear incompetent in the new conditions).

All those involved in team formation must expect the inevitable appearance of difficulties and frustrations, and then show goodwill, patience, and willingness to overcome them. Various teaching tricks can help. For example, when a member realizes that they have made a mistake, they blow a whistle – thus announcing to the team that they have realized their mistake and are doing everything necessary/possible to correct it and avoid its repetition.

On the other hand, a mistake can also be evidence of a change in mindset, of breaking out of routine, of practicing innovation – thus moving in the right direction. (We are not talking here about mistakes due to carelessness or incompetence – but about those related to the attempt to surpass oneself).

However, it should be emphasized that changing mindset and adapting individuals to new conditions cannot be done quickly; it is a difficult mental process that requires time – that is, patience, money, etc. Any experienced person knows this. Here’s what an ancient philosopher said:

“Nothing serious is created spontaneously, just as fruit does not appear all at once. To have fruit, you have to wait for it to bloom, bear fruit, and then ripen.”

Avoiding and correcting these difficulties of normal, natural, inevitable growth (“dangers”) is a permanent task of team leaders and coordinators, as well as team-building education.


2.5. How is team spirit formed?

teamwork
teamwork

All well and good, but practically, how can a “team” and its specific mentality come about?

In contrast to the individualistic conception of traditional education here (but widespread elsewhere as well), abroad, there have emerged ideas about a new kind of education that capitalises on the advantages of teamwork, of working collectively on common projects. It seeks to teach people to collaborate efficiently with other individuals, to subordinate their personal interests for the collective good.

The idea hasn’t just remained on paper. In advanced countries, it’s being successfully implemented, though it’s not yet universal education even there. Based on it, numerous young people, adults of various ages and professions, juvenile delinquents, the disabled, etc., are being educated (and re-educated).

For a group of disparate individuals, who may not even know each other, to become teammates and to participate effectively in a collective activity with a common goal embraced by all, or for social cohesion and responsible civic attitude to emerge in a community, it’s necessary to break down the psychological barriers and natural inhibitions that separate people. Before they can generate effective solutions to the problems facing the group or participate in social change in the community, mutual trust and real communication need to develop among participants, and they need to change their mentality traditionally driven by instincts, fear, distrust, etc.

Furthermore, fostering tolerance, understanding, and acceptance of the needs and rights of individuals from diverse ethnicities, colors, cultures, and backgrounds necessitates letting go of primitive, selfish, and destructive instincts. It’s important to emphasize that upholding Malay and Bumiputera rights is not considered racist. Instead, prioritizing the well-being of all communities, including Malay and Bumiputera communities, is crucial for maintaining stability within the country.

If left to occur naturally, such a change can take decades, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all: due to internal conflicts (which attract external conflicts like a magnet), the community (group) disappears before changing, swept away by more competitive “outsiders”.

On the contrary, directed change (through education) can happen much more quickly. However, for individuals to act as a team, to cooperate efficiently, they need a special education, unusual for us. The effort to change mentality is difficult, stressful, and a significant energy drain. However, it’s worth doing, from the perspective of the collective interest. The greater and more united power of the team is evident in any competition or conflict, including those occurring within globalization.

Education for the formation of team spirit is called Team-building.


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