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Lessons from Blue Collar-Teamwork

What is a team?

On wickipedia:
A team is a group of individuals (human or non-human) working together to achieve their goal.

Working as a team, means the individuals all have the same goal, and are striving for accomplishing it. A team that has individuals who are not there for that goal, can make a team flounder and fail. An individual who goes above and beyond, can make the team flourish and succeed. It can get down right complicated.

A bit of Math

John Nash: Prisoner's Dilemma, Game theory, Nash's Equilibrium

In the movie, 'A Beautiful Mind', the story explains one of Nash's great breakthroughs with a scene at a bar. Three women walk in, and the men all wish to approach the blonde. If all the men work solely on their individual desires(getting the blonde), the likely-hood they all fail, (none of them get one of these woman), if far greater. But if they worked as a team, and each approached the non-blondes, they have a much greater potential to succeed.

This would require them to work as a team, and as individuals in the best interest of the team.

How does this apply in blue collar?

EVERYWHERE. Though many may not realize it in this way. If person (A) only works to their self interest, they damage person(B)'s potential to succeed. Much like the saying 'set up for success', and 'set up for failure' teamwork requires each member to have the intentions of seeing everyone succeed, and not just themselves.

How does helping my co-worker help me?

I would bet that everyone would in some way agree that if the whole team is successful, that each individual is also successful - despite any setbacks or failures that result from an individual's actions. In a healthy team, if slack happens, everyone picks up a line, and pulls to relieve that slack.

In the inverse of that, if a person only is interested in their own success, they would not pick up the line, and stay diligent to only their task. Or "it's not my job." There are plenty of situations where this is justified, and plenty where it leads to the failure of a whole team.

Sometimes, in the labor field, it can feel like no matter how much extra effort an individual puts forward, they never seem to get any further advanced, the team never seems to 'succeed'.

(success => reward)
Examples of rewards:
1) financial reward
*career advancement

2) job well done!
*acknowledgement of success

3) other compensation
*Extra days off
*Being able to go home early
*Pride in the job

4) Being a part of a great team
*Something to take pride in
*Contentment with the workplace
*Having more than a paycheck to go to work for


Counter-argument: 'No good deed goes unpunished'. Person(A) constantly leaves behind messes in the kitchen for the next shift. Person(B) Diligently cleans it up and keeps it clean for the next shift. Person(B) may, or may not ever see a reward for their part in keeping the team successful. But they will be a part of keeping it from failing.

They shouldn't have to.

This is where the management and upper management comes in. This is your role in the teams success. Check with your team. See what can be improved, what can be implemented to create an environment where everyone is working toward that goal. If there are reasons someone is unable, or unwilling, see what can be done to make the goal more attainable, more sustainable, more applicable to that team member.

Some of the greatest leaders, or management I've had in life wanted not only their company to succeed or themselves, they wanted the individuals to succeed, the whole team to succeed.

This happens through safe practices to keep the team healthy, mentally and physically. This happens through communication and a true effort to see the needs of the workers met. This happens through elevating team members who go above and beyond, recognizing success, and implementing rewards for a team's job well done.

How it looks in action:

Person(A) needs a 10mm socket to complete the maintenance task.
Person(B) has the only available 10mm, but it is unused in the toolbox.
Person A asks B to borrow the 10mm to finish the task. Person B agrees, but needs it back immediately.

**Another article for another time: What role Trust plays in a great team.

Person A & B mention to management that more 10mm sockets are required for the team to be able to effectively and efficiently get the jobs done. Managements hears this, values this input, and trusts that the team is in need of this item, and works to get it ordered.

When it goes wrong:

Everyone is doing what is best for the team. What would happen in this line of reasoning if even one person refuses to do what would benefit everyone most?

Person A could just grab the socket and not tell person B, leading to person B delaying their task later in search of the missing socket.

Person B could refuse to let person A borrow it, delaying person B's repairs and causing animosity.

Person A & B could refuse to mention it to management, management could refuse to listen, trust becomes broken, Person A & B do not feel valued to management.
Each of these things would lead to dysfunction and limit the potential for success.


A team can fail, or succeed based on individual action, in-action, or refusal to commit to the 'best possible outcome for all'.

A team can succeed even when there are pitfalls or obstacles by reaching up, reaching out, and pulling a line that may not be theirs to pull. A team can succeed through the harshest and worst of circumstances, and they can succeed even when things look impossible, A team can be wildly successful when all members work for the same goal... If everyone is working for the success of their fellow team members.

We can do this, together.

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