One of the best parts about watching sports is seeing a team work in unison, with a common vision, and watching it succeed. Championships are won through the efforts of talented individuals who work together towards a common purpose. The same lessons we learn from sports can also be applied to the business world.

While great teamwork can inspire and unite us, teamwork failures occur too and can cause discontent, conflict, and of course, losing records. We can all learn from these real-life examples of teamwork, both the great moments and the failures.

Learning from Great Teamwork

1. Trust and Anticipate

In this incredible feat of teamwork during a 2010 Oklahoma-Oklahoma State football game, Broderick Brown flies out of bounds and tips a Landry Jones pass over to teammate Shaun Lewis for the interception. Brown's example of self-sacrifice and risk-taking, combined with Shaun Lewis's ability to follow, anticipate, and execute with intuition, provides an impressive moment from which to learn. There of course may be some luck thrown in there, but without a high level of precision, all the luck in the world doesn't help.

Business Lesson: Developing relationships in the workplace and building trust is essential to developing team confidence and working with others effectively. By knowing and trusting your teammates, you increase opportunities for collaboration and gain confidence knowing that the team supports you even in risky situations like Broderick Brown's. Building that trust requires honesty and integrity, caring, competence, and consistency in doing what you say you will do.

2. Team Strategy

It is obvious that Dwayne Wade is completely dedicated to the goal of winning the game. Here you see him at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics sacrificing some personal glory by assisting Kobe Bryant, who swiftly dunks the ball. Wade had strong awareness of where his teammates were at that moment, and thought a few steps ahead to utilize Kobe in order to reach the team's goals. Bryant also had the intuition and skill set that prepared him to perfectly execute.

Business Lesson: High-flying antics like this Wade-Bryant play represent a strategy widely used nowadays by almost every basketball team, from high schoolers to pros. An acrobatic dunk of this variety can make a powerful statement against the opposing team if the timing is right, and can also whip a crowd into a frenzy. An organization's strategies must be planned and executed in a similar fashion. They must be clearly communicated throughout the organization so that everyone can make smart choices on a daily basis. Making strategy everyone's job by articulating clear, simple goals and directives will help everyone focus better on how to reach those benchmarks.

3. Total Focus and Awareness Leads to Agility

As someone who played baseball when I was younger, it always amazes me how the pros take incredibly difficult actions and make them look almost effortless. These back-to-back triple plays (a rarity in baseball) require incredible precision, swiftness, focus, practice, and awareness of where all runners are on the field. Each player must think quickly and trust each one of his teammates to do their jobs. When this is accomplished, the defense shuts down the inning in one play.

Business Lesson: Anticipating the possibilities, looking beyond what's immediately in front of you, and sensing changes on the business horizon allow workers to make better decisions and give them the ability to respond and adapt to changes. A tailored but flexible approach to taking action promotes agility and provides people with the ability to better handle ongoing evolution in the market and uncertainty in the business environment.

Learning from Failed Teamwork

1. Focus on the Larger Goal

Outfielder collisions often lead to dropped balls and injuries, and they often occur because of two big mistakes: allowing ego to get in the way and failing to listen. Typically, these types of situations can be prevented by establishing strong communication among players during months of practice. Team-member expectations should generally be established ahead of time in order to avoid these types of collisions during a game.

Business Lesson: In order to survive and thrive, your organization will have to navigate strategic shifts and find new sources of competitive advantage. Leaders must look toward the future and take responsibility for strategic opportunities and problems that will arise in the business environment. However, leaders don't work alone. It is just as important for every team and individual in the organization to create and execute their own standalone strategies that parallel the overarching strategy of the business. This gives everyone in the organization the opportunity to stay focused on the larger goal rather than having their team and individual strategies collide with one another.

2. Self-Sacrifice is Necessary

This moment is not one of Russell Westbrook's finest. He seems to be driven by personal gain here, and would rather miss a shot than pass the ball to his teammate, Kevin Durant. That seems slightly foolish, since we're talking about an MVP here. Whether Westbrook failed to pass because he was seeking personal glory in this instance or he just didn't see the team's star trying to contribute, this was clearly a teamwork failure.

Business Lesson: Unfortunately, experiences like this are common in an office. Maybe you work with someone who would rather hang onto the ball than pass because they want to claim responsibility for the team's victory. Maybe you know someone who tried to take on too much in order to prove his or her self-worth and cost your team a win. In either case, the work of the team suffers. Developing flexible leadership in an organization helps team members adapt their behavior to meet the needs of others and put the team's interests above those of the self. Create an environment that draws all members of the team into discussions, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to share their views.

3. Know Where You're Going

Watching these two medics make a bad situation worse by failing to communicate and literally not knowing which direction they should be going is painful to watch--and a result of poor leadership. Clearly, one person should be leading and the other should be following. However, in this instance, both people don't know the plan or how to follow it.

Business Lesson: Although formulating a strategy and knowing where you're going is important, it isn't enough. Your strategy must be clear enough to people in the company that it leads automatically to thoughts and actions. The strategy must also be communicated throughout the organization, so that people feel well-guided and motivated. This will help everyone on the team know where they are going and how they are going to get there.

Published on: Jul 7, 2015