What are the cleverest sayings about teamwork?

by Sam on June 21, 2010

One-Minute Answer:  One of the most difficult client requests for me to fulfill is to appear in front of a group of employees to convince them of the benefits of teamwork. Preaching is rarely effective at changing behavior. Our words educate more reliably than they rehabilitate.


But then sometimes the words of others lend impact I don’t have on my own, particularly when they are witty, can be traced to well-known personalities, or transmit powerful images or stories.


Summer Schedule

We’ll appear every other week during the vacation season, so you won’t see us next Wednesday. The last day we’ll miss is Aug. 25. Enjoy your summer!


Consider, for example this popular factoid about geese flying in formation.


1.  As each goose flaps its wings, the birds behind are literally uplifted. A “V” formation provides a flock with 71% more flying range than each bird can manage alone.

2.  A goose that falls out of formation immediately feels the drag and resistance of solo flight quickly returning to leverage the lifting power of the birds ahead.

3.  A tiring lead goose rotates toward the rear of the formation and another goose takes over the point position.

4.  Geese toward the rear of the formation honk to encourage those up front to maintain good speed.

5.  When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot two companions relinquish the benefits of formation to follow their distressed comrade and administer help and protection. They stand by this member of the flock until he or she flies again or dies. Eventually they resume flight on their own, with another formation, or rejoin their original flock.


These five points convict us about how we should behave in human work teams. With any luck, the phrases that follow will have a similar impact on you as well as on those that you hope to spur on to greater solidarity.



Five-Minute Answer: Feel free to use these quotes as you wish. Simply enjoy them. Post a teamwork thought for the week in your office to inspire others. Or attribute the need for teamwork to personalities that your listeners may heed (“Benjamin Franklin once said…”).


The Necessity for Teamwork

“We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  ~Benjamin Franklin

“They said you have to use your five best players, but I found you win with the five that fit together best.”  ~Red Auerbach, coach of the Boston Celtics

“If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”  ~Mark 3:25

“When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.”  ~African proverb

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.”  ~African proverb

[Until we collect people around us of similar mind we are vulnerable and we aren’t of as much use to others as we can be.]

The Strength of Teamwork

“One man may hit the mark, another blunder; but heed not these distinctions. Only from the alliance of the one, working with and through the other, are great things born.”  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  ~Margaret Meade

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.”  ~Vesta M. Kelly

“When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.”  ~Joe Paterno

“The pope and a peasant know more between them than the pope alone.”  ~Italian proverb

[Our impact is magnified exponentially when people with the same vision we have walk beside us.]

Actions Required of Team members

“The most important name on your shirt is the one on the front.”  ~Herb Brooks, Coach of 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team

“No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You cannot sink someone else’s end of the boat and still keep your own afloat.”  ~Charles Bower

“Check your ego at the door.”  ~Sign placed by Lionel Ritchie over door of studio for music legends to see as they entered to record the song “We Are the World”

“Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ‘em to play together is the hard part.”  ~Casey Stengel

[As soon as we are willing to submerge our individual needs for those of the team our collective power is unleashed.]

Benefits to Team Members

“Teams share the burden and divide the grief.”  ~Doug Smith

“Light is the task where many share the toil.”  ~Homer

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t try to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.”  ~Proverb of unknown origin

“There is great comfort and inspiration in the feeling of close human relationships and its bearing on our mutual fortunes.”  ~Walt Disney

[Being a net giver to others rather than a net taker from them is freeing and strengthening, not sacrificial and weakening.]


Enough Said:  “These are scraps from the table of wisdom that if well digested, yield strong nourishment to thy mind.”  ~Ben Franklin on an edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack.


Two Weeks from Now:  Staying on the theme of quotations for the summer, the question we’ll answer on July 7 is, “What’s some of the best advice for followership?”

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