True definition of ‘team’ goes beyond any dictionary

Published 11:14 am Thursday, May 19, 2016

According to the really smart people who write Merriam-Webster’s Dictionaries, a team is defined as a “group of people who work together.”

That is certainly true, but I do not think that definition even scratches the surface of what a team is or what one must be to achieve greatness. Look at the National Basketball Association for a perfect example.

Right now, the NBA Playoffs feature four teams battling in the conference finals, with the teams that are diverse and multi-talented being the ones that are thriving. The Cleveland Cavaliers seem to fit that bill.

Beyond basketball, defining a team starts with the basics.

First, as the dictionary stated, a team is a collection of individuals, but they must be working toward a common goal. There will certainly be individual objectives and agendas but those have to align with overall direction of the group.

Building a great team requires individuals who are willing to fill their particular roles but also who are flexible enough to adjust on the fly as needed. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses; finding ways to maximize and minimize those, respectively, is the key.

Great teams require everyone to check their egos and make sacrifices for the greater good. Ideologies like “that’s not my job” or “that wasn’t in my job description” erode team culture and drive wedges that make the unit nothing more than a collection of individuals.

Teams require everyone realizing that constructive criticism isn’t personal and that positive changes often take self-reflection.

Many businesses operate with a group of co-workers that fits the Webster’s definition, but that doesn’t mean they are truly a team. That should be the challenge for every manager or leader: to find a way to develop a real team.

In many ways, teams are like families. Not everyone is going to agree all the time, or even like each other. But, at the end of the day, the bond and connection of a team will lead to greater success for all.


Michael Caldwell is the publisher of Leader Publications LLC. He can be reached at (269) 687-7700 or by email at