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Teamwork Part 1: Making Recognition a Resource


If anyone knows about leadership & teamwork it was Pat Summit, Hall of Fame basketball coach from the University of Tennessee. In her book "Reach for the Summit" she says:

“The amount of success you are capable of enjoying and the pleasure you are capable of feeling is equal to the number of people you are willing to share it with.”

Sharing doesn’t come naturally though. We’ve all seen this when we watch kids playing; the crying starts when they have to share their favorite toy.

Diagnose Your Team

To diagnose the current state of any team you're on, ponder how you would respond to this statement:

"If I make a mistake on our team, it is not held against me."
-Google's "Project Aristotle"

Responses will tell you how much you need to pump fear out of the room to begin making recognition come alive!

Do These!

First, set aside your personal feelings, ambitions & agendas. Make sure you're on the team for the right reasons and surrender the mistaken idea that you can go it alone.

Second, realize we’re all responsible for creating the environment for effective teamwork. It's not ON someone else, it's IN all of us.

Third, think of one of your teammates who has helped you recently. Now begin to think about how you would thank them. Now be specific in recognizing the value of their help!

"Project Aristotle" Action Items for Psychological Safety

  • Leaders aren't afraid to go first
    • Model the way!
  • Admit when you don’t know something
    • “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.” -C.S. Lewis
  • Start each meeting with recognition
    • Appreciate everyone's contributions to the cause
  • Ask for help
    • Nobody knows everything but everyone knows something

Sum It Up

Making RECOGNITION a resource goes way beyond just saying "thanks" to a team member.  It’s developing the ability to both give & receive gratitude authentically. These human skills are a great way to increase psychological safety on your team.  With this improvement, team members will feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable with one another. Individuals move from doing things to "be safe" on the team to providing evidence of their trustworthiness. It's only when people feel safe that behaviors of trust can flourish.

The resource of recognition helps clarify roles and responsibilities of teammates. It helps everyone play to their strengths. It helps leverage the collective talents of the team. It helps everyone know how to best collaborate. It helps the team become healthier.

What is rewarded is repeated.

What’s repeated becomes habit.

Making recognition a resource is the key to teamwork that will make the dream work!

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Comments (1)

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As a former college basketball player, Pat Head Summit was an inspiration to so many!  Teamwork has been a major part of my entire life...we must work together to accomplish and succeed.  Thanks for this article!


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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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