What Makes a Good Team? Part Four: Selflessness

Team Building

There is no perfect team. But there is a recipe for success – many similar characteristics shared by effective teams, independent of industry or function. Throughout this blog series, we will take a closer look at each of these characteristics, explore why each is important, and provide you with ways to instill and improve each characteristic within your own team.

Part Four: The Importance of Selflessness in Teamwork

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

― Dalai Lama XIV

In Part Two of our mini-series on “What Makes a Good Team?” we discussed the importance of unity – coming together.  With any team, unity or teamwork is important. It is what allows a team to run like a well-oiled machine and achieve success. However, unity is just a part of the puzzle. In order to truly become a good team (or even a great team), each member must put aside their own personal agendas and work toward the common goal, whatever it may be. This is what we are talking about when we say Selflessness.

Why is it Important to be Selfless?



self·less \ˈsel-fləs\

  1. having little or no concern for oneself, especially with regard to fame,position, money, etc.; unselfish
  2. having or showing great concern for other people and little or no concern for yourself

“Selfishness destroys, but selflessness builds,” says Coach Scotty Kessler. This simple distinction can be the difference between success and failure for a team. And it takes just one selfish employee to drag a team down.

“Teamwork means sacrifice and selflessness,” writes Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard Allen Murray in “A Day in the Life: Career Options in Library and Information Science.”

In other words, members of a good team must understand the importance of the organizational vision (which should be clearly outlined and communicated to each employee), and put that shared goal ahead of any personal goals. As the old saying goes, “There is no ‘I’ in team.”

“Thus, effective teamwork consists in part of communal selflessness, a collective setting aside of personal agendas and desires, for the good of the whole,” write Diana Whitney, Jay Cherney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom, and Ron Fry in “Appreciative Team Building: Positive Questions to Bring Out the Best of Your Team.”

But this is sometimes easier said than done, especially in today’s “How will this benefit me?” society.

Learning to Work Together

“To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless.”

– Mike Krzyzewski

From the basketball court to the office, selflessness plays its role. In order to function as a team, each employee must put aside their personal agendas and work toward the common good. However, this does not always come naturally – especially when many different personalities have to come together. This is where Terrapin Adventures comes in. Our team building programs are customized to meet the individual needs of every organization we work with. We will give your employees a crash course in selflessness.

Our team team building activities challenge groups to break down communication barriers and work together to solve certain problems as a team. In one such activity – Trollies – your group will be asked to work as one cohesive unit using a single pair of shoes to get from Point A to Point B. Easy, right? Well, not quite. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds, and the exercise gets harder with each progressing level. Mastering the trollies requires a great deal of communication, shared leadership, and concentration skills, making it the perfect team building exercise.

After the exercise, your group will sit down with their facilitator to discuss the lessons behind what they just did. This discussion is designed to reinforce these lessons and help ensure that the progress made during your team building outing sticks.

Physical Activity: Easy

Equipment: Wood boards, rope

Trollies is just one example of the many different team building exercises that Terrapin Adventures uses to help your team reach their full potential. Each of our team building exercises is fun but challenging, designed to make your employees stop, think, communicate, adjust their plan of action on the fly, and ultimately fail once or twice before succeeding. Get in touch with a Guest Relations Specialist today and ask about how we can help you plan your team building event.

Schedule Your Corporate Team Building Session!

Conveniently located between Baltimore and Washington DC, Terrapin Adventures is able to create a customized program (onsite or offsite, indoor or outdoor) to help better your business. Our programs provide for exciting activities that bridge the gaps in communication, improve collaboration, and expand your group’s problem solving skills.

If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at info@terrapinadventures.com to learn more.

Works Cited:

  1. Kail, Eric. “Leadership Character: The Role of Selflessness.” The Washington Post. N.p., 22 July 2011. Web.
  2. Whitney, Diana Kaplin. Appreciative Team Building: Positive Questions to Bring out the Best of Your Team. New York: IUniverse, 2004. Print.
  3. Shontz, Priscilla K., and Richard A. Murray. A Day in the Life: Career Options in Library and Information Science. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007. Print.
  4. Stouffer, Bob. Light or Darkness: Reclaiming the Light in Sports. Urbandale, IA: Three Circle, 2011. Print.
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