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WinShape Authors Share Tips on Making Your Team Work

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Russ Sarratt and Rusty Chadwick have been working together for close to a decade, and their debut book Team Work, their first book together, is the product of a wealth of experience and a couple of years of focused writing. As directors of the Chick-fil-A family’s foundation, WinShape, Russ and Rusty “have devoted their lives to building strong relationships, healthy teams and united families.”

Russ says that this book is the “summation of lots of years of the work that we've done together. We've seen lots of really healthy teams and lots of really unhealthy teams. I've walked through people with those teams through a lots of different things. It was the chance for Rusty and I to collect some of that and put it down into what we hope is a very simple, accessible, and practical form.”

And that is exactly how Team Work reads. You will not find pages of confusing jargon which might only attract the elite leadership of corporations or thinktanks. Instead, the advice in these pages is meant for anyone, on any type of team (even CEOs). From sports to families to the workplace, Russ and Rusty offer candid stories about their own families, combined with thorough research of real-life teams to create an inspirational and practical guide to making your own team successful.

I spoke with Russ and Rusty recently about Team Work, and how they say you can implement their wisdom to build healthy teams at home, work, and beyond.

So tell me, did you know each other before the joining the WinShape foundation? How did you come up with the idea for this book?

RUSS: Actually, Rusty and I did not know each other previous to working together – we've done a lot of work with teams together since. You know, the big thing for us with this book was just so many books in this sphere, in this genre, are written for leaders. Our heart was to really create a resource for team members. Something that you can own your role within a team and your experience within a team. It would've felt weird to write a book about teamwork by yourself, I think. It was a great fit for us to do it as a team. In reality, there's lots of other people that supported us through editing and marketing. It was a really great experience.

Well, if we can jump into chapter 14, you write “When we focus on ourselves and our individual work, we will write our names on the resources we have to ensure individual success,” which made me think of being in a big family or even at work and writing your name on your food in the refrigerator. But you say “this approach is completely antithetical to the concept of a team. It breeds competition, each person angling to maintain or increase his or her share of the proverbial pie.”

RUSTY: In writing this chapter, a couple of years ago, we had a chance to study adventure racing team. Well, this concept was just so evident. The sport of adventure racing is a team sport. There's typically four people on a team and it's a grueling endurance effort. So you're traveling from point A to point B, oftentimes hundreds of kilometers over multiple days, racing day and night at the elite level. The winning team might do it in four or five days. It's a really intense struggle. We studied the best team in the world. We interviewed them, filmed them, watched them at the world championships in 2018, followed them and then interviewed them in their home country of New Zealand. We asked them ‘What makes a healthy team?’ And one of the things we really saw them model when they would come into areas where they would switch from one discipline to another, from tracking to biking or something like that, they were immediately looking at each other. ‘What can I get for you? Who has food? Who needs this?’ It was this constant focus on, ‘We have a team objective, and if we have a team objective and one of us advancing further than the others doesn't help us. We have to keep the team strong.’

That means making sure each person has what they need. They even talked about where you watch teams out on the course, and you see somebody out in front looking back at their teammates, saying, ‘Hurry up, come on, go faster!’ It doesn't help to tell them to go faster. You have to help because we're all in this together.

RUSS: And I think actually the sharing resources principle might be one of the most practical and outwardly obvious principles that the internal mindset is for the team. You can't fake it. If I’m holding on to my stuff, while I see my teammates suffering, well, it's pretty clear what I really think about being for the team versus if I'm willingly giving or even looking for more ways to try to give. That is very outwardly evident of what is what's going on inside.

That raises a good question, because you say this book is for team members, not necessarily leadership. So, if I’m on a work team, how would I deal with a situation in which someone will not share the load?

RUSTY: It's a great question because it speaks to the fact that these principles in and of themselves, each one of them has merit on its own, but it also kind of highlights the fact that there is sort of an underlying agreement or approach to teamsmanship that needs to be discussed. If we take one principle and say, ‘Hey, I see someone else not exemplifying this, how do I draw out of them a desire or willingness to share or to contribute in this way?’ That can be a tough conversation that may or may not be fruitful.

‘Can we have a conversation around what our objective is here? What does that look like? What does that mean to each of us?’ Sometimes that can be helpful to go back to the start, because ultimately it is unnatural innocence to take what's mine and give it to someone else, unless I do have a common agreement that we're working towards something together. Oftentimes the best way for us to begin the process of instilling this in our teams is to model. It's just a start. And that's so hard because we think, ‘Gosh, if I do this, am I going to get taken advantage of?’

That’s certainly something to be aware of. We're not saying it's best to become a doormat on the team, but oftentimes that service is contagious and it's sort of like living a life that demands an explanation where folks say, ‘Tell me more about that, because I'm not living that way.’

RUSS: To me, two things come to mind. One is that somebody has to go first and be vulnerable, stick themselves out there and make the offer. And the other thing that my mind goes to is Romans chapter 12 at the end, I think it's verse 21 says, ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with doing good.’ The idea of overcoming by doing good, I think that's where you've got to go first, if you're the one that recognizes it. So, be vulnerable but offer what you have and just kind of put yourself out there. With prayer as well, I think the Lord honors that.

Because I know Jesus, and I know you are both Christians, I can see His teachings in your words but it feels like it's not necessarily directed to just one particular faith. Is this book really accessible to anybody?

RUSS: Yeah, absolutely. We wanted to create a resource that would be accessible for anybody, especially if you are a believer but you work in a place that's very secular, it’s a great way for you to be able to practically live out what it means to be a Christ-follower. The principles in the book definitely come from that place. They're founded on biblical principles at the end of the day. And but it's definitely not written in a preachy kind of way. And that would be our hope that it could be very accessible for anyone, but we know that it's grounded and rooted in truth of scripture.

How would these principles translate to my personal and further into my family life?

RUSTY: Well, my kids laugh because I told them they were featured in the book. It's actually the beginning of chapter 14. I said, ‘You're kind of famous for hoarding your Halloween candy,’ so they get a big kick out of that. But in fact, when I got my first copy of the book, my son, that was the first place he looked to find himself. But I think for kids being able from an early age to think about, ‘Hey, this family is a team and we're committed to a common purpose. We're called as a family to do great things and to come together around a common purpose. We have mutual interests here. So, me protecting what's mine and taking that from others is not conducive to that.’

When it comes to a marriage, thinking ‘Is this about me trying to get mine and you try and get yours?’ You're just trying to come together and say, ‘Hey, we both win.’ It calls us to humble ourselves and those relationships, and to remember that really we're serving others, not serving ourselves.

RUSS: I mean, even the title of the book. There's a reason it's Team Work – two words – because to be a team and one that's healthy, one that's fulfilled and successful, it takes work. It takes intentional work. I think a family is no different. It takes intentional work to be trustworthy, to share our resources, to engage in healthy conflict. How do we respond to change and keep the right perspective? At the end of the day, it's really about healthy relationships and how we actually function in those healthy relationships.

Is there anything about Team Work you’d like to be sure people take with them?

RUSS: We tell the story of a British Explorer named Alastair Humphreys, who has done all this crazy stuff, like he's ridden his bike around the world – he's done lots of crazy stuff. And somebody asked him, ‘What's the hardest part: starting, or going on one of your adventures?’ And he said, ‘Pedaling away from my house, deciding to actually start, because you're going off into so much unknown.’ There's a Scandinavian phrase that essentially means the ‘doorstep mile.’ I think we would both say the hardest part about pursuing a really strong, healthy, fulfilling, successful team is taking the first step and actively, like Rusty said, actively going into tomorrow and say, ‘What can I do?’ and actually doing it. It's going to take a little bit of time to build that momentum.

RUSTY: Yeah, I fully agree. I think maybe the only thing I would end with is just to say it's worth it. It's worth it. Like Russ mentioned earlier, the title of book is Team Work and you think ‘Why a book like this? Why do we need this?’ Because I think all of us can relate to, at least I know I can, the fact that it is easy to wish it was different. ‘I wish it could change. I wish someone else would do something. I see all these factors contributing where the experiences at what I want, and it can feel sometimes like how can we have that fulfilling, amazing team? Is that even possible?’ And the truth is it's totally possible. It's totally worth it.

It takes some work to humble ourselves, to lift others up, to encourage them, to be willing to go in and put the hard work in. But it's also so rewarding. Think about when you watch those sports teams win championships. The first thing they do is run to the middle of the field and cheer, because it's so great to experience that with other people. Success on your own can become a lonely place. But when you know that you've helped a team come together to achieve something great and you've added value to their lives, it's a great feeling.

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