When Eric Frohlich thinks of teamwork, he can't help but think of boats. That's because Frohlich is a passionate rower--he's also the founder of Row House, which offers full-body rowing workouts. After years of indulging in the sport, and as an entrepreneur, he's finally revealing the top teamwork insights he's learned on the water.
1. Create, clarify and authentically believe in a common goal and strategy
Teams can achieve success only when they have a clear goal that everyone agrees on and works for. Each person in the group has to understand how their contributions move everyone forward. That means managers have to be intimately aware not only of each individual's purpose, but also what motivates them to action (e.g., financial incentive, respect or admiration of others) for the good and closeness of the company.
"A common call on the water is 'mind in the boat.' The coxswain is the only one who is seated in the boat that can actually see where the boat is going. Thus, he/she acts as the eyes and ears and has the role of calling the race strategy and requires the trust of the entire crew. This lets each rower focus on what he or she needs to do.
"An effective manager can have the same effect in the workplace. When you really trust that the person who's telling you what needs to be, you can work with complete conviction, as if you're seeing it with your own eyes. That trust helps teams accomplish more together."
2. Cover your blind spots
Frohlich points out that, as in rowing, each person on any new business team you build should have their own unique role and skill sets. When you celebrate this diversity, team members feel a stronger sense of camaraderie.
"A lot of times, we get distracted by the things right in front of us. You can get caught off guard by all the things you aren't focused on -- glaring holes in your team, your business plan or your strategy -- that can throw the best teams off balance."
Being aware of blind spots means relying on a sound strategy and good leadership to foresee issues and make adjustments as needed.
Asking too much too often from your team isn't the answer.
"You have to ask for the right power at the right time. In a boat, a coxswain can't ask his or her team for 'power strokes' all the time. Consistently pushing teams or individual employees too hard breaks down morale and doesn't ensure there is still gas in the tank for when you need that big push.
"When you do need your employees to push, you'll have the buy in and trust to get great results. They realize how hard they can push, with work that's greater than what they thought they were capable of."
3. Be a model while pulling more than just yourself
To Frohlich, you shouldn't just pull your own weight in a team. You should pull your share of the group's collective weight and responsibility. Everyone has to achieve a lot more than they're achieving just for themselves. Done well, this builds trust.
"It's not just a matter of doing your job," Frohlich says, "You're leading by example for the person in front of you and the person behind you."
Frohlich claims that, while this principle is built into every rowing practice where the crew depends on each other, it's even more obvious in the corporate setting. If people aren't 100 percent on any given day, trust, camaraderie and all the elements teams need to succeed suffer. Once again, the difference between winning and losing comes down to the coxswain or team manager's ability to give clear commands and direction, execute the plan and keep everyone motivated. It's up to them to positively manipulate each individual for collective gain.
"The respect that position commands from the crew [or group] is directly proportional to how much they trust each other. [...] Make sure you're putting the right people in the right place for the right reasons. Don't be afraid to move those people around to figure out where they are strongest and what they're capable of."
4. Look to each other to go the distance
"One of the mantras at Row House is, 'If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. [...] When a crew is rowing in perfect unison, the boat almost levitates beyond the ability of those who are rowing. That synergy creates something exponentially better than the effort going into it.
"[In the same way], the best companies aren't wrapped up in what their competitors are doing. They're focused on creating the best version of their vision. You can't do that when you're competing against other companies or individuals. You do that when you're competing against yourself."
Frohlich's guidance boils down to one mantra-worthy principle: Teams work because of duality. As team members humble themselves to think of the whole, trusting and offering effort for each other and their leaders, leaders conversely don't abuse the humility and work. Instead, they recognize individual dependence and skill and constantly provide the truthful, compassionate direction and push necessary for yields. If you want real strength, to cross the finish line before anybody else, you must train between those two lines with all you're worth.