Team Building and Leadership Expert Michael Cardus

Does Friendship Build a Team?

Aristotle suggested that friendship, like successful team membership, has three components:

  • They must enjoy one another’s company.
  • They must be useful to one another.
  • They must share a common commitment to the good.
Team Members Must Enjoy One Another’s Company
  • What does it mean to enjoy a team member’s company?
  • What is it that makes the other members not just tolerable but enjoyable?

A mistake many people make is to emphasize being liked by the other team members. They work very hard at appearing likable so that others will value them as a member of the team. At first glance, this seems to work. Gestures of friendship, loyalty & rewards go to the team members who have the greatest “apparent” value, like a pair of shoes or a new car.

Sadly, this effect is temporary.

Once the team members fail to “catch the eye” of the purchaser (the powers that be), they “trade up.” This results in a team that is more like a marketplace & can lead to a team culture of deceit and high turnover.

Team members operating this way fail to see the other members as people of equal value; they see them as objects or goods to be used for their advancement.

For an effective team to form, the opposite must happen. Team members must look for the valuable skills & work traits in the other team members. Work on building connections across skill talent or traits, such as competency, adding value to the team, transparency, dependability, accountability & trust.

Aristotle taught that by enjoying other team members’ company & concentrating on who they are, we learn what makes a person a trusted member of the group. And that is where effective teamwork starts.

 Team Members Must be Useful to One Another
  • A team is a means to develop a networked system of shared usefulness.

Team members who have high job satisfaction within the team’s tasks, who stay with a team for years typically develop a deep understanding of the reciprocal value of cooperation with other team members. Once team members experience this interdependent value, cooperation increases.

Why? They begin to see and experience the benefits that accrue from team membership. It moves from being viewed as an obligation to become a source of personal value.

Developing a team-oriented culture of goals and metrics, where team members can act in self-directed ways that multiply the effectiveness of the entire organization, can increase team cohesion & perceived usefulness among team members. Like a symphony orchestra, each team member is treated as a specialist knowing when they are most useful, in resonance with the whole team.

 Team Members Have a Common Commitment to the Good
  • Creating goals, metrics & benchmarks for team success creates a culture in which the team members strive to make their team successful. The result is a commitment to the common good.

A team that lacks a commitment to the common good will fail. This is the responsibility of all team members, not just management. Once team members choose to be “useful to one another,” as well as “enjoy the other team members’ company,” a unified set of goals can emerge. These unified goals translate into increased productivity, lower turnover, and the development of a team that is high-functioning  & effective.

So do they need to like-like each other?

Do team members need to be friends with one another as opposed to merely tolerating other team members? Yes.

This is done with a paradigm shift:

“making myself an effective team member, one who is dedicated to being a team member as opposed to making myself desirable for membership within the team.”


What do you think?

What do you think of this formulation of team member friendship; enjoy each other’s company, be useful, and a shared commitment to the good? Does this happen within your work teams?

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