Bump, set, spike of teamwork

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Greg Karahalis
  • 12th Space Warning Squadron commander
Maybe it's shameless of me to say, 12th SWS dominates volleyball here at Thule. My admittedly partial observation of our Archies on the volleyball court is that we have developed a really strong team for volleyball. We know our servers, setters, spikers, coaches, organizers and everyone is an enthusiastic cheerleader. As the commander, it's fun to participate, but it's more exciting to see the communication, coordination and hustle. It's these last three things that honestly translate into the development of high performance teams.

One of our volleyball organizers and coaches is Capt. Jonathan Brydie. He's on the court prodding people to call for the ball. In the office he's broken through some communication challenges within his operations flight. His simple secret - and we've all been at one - he had an off site. He got his whole team together, got them talking, built trust, and now he's reaping the rewards. His people are sharing ideas and working their problems together, safe in the knowledge that these are trusted teammates from whom they will get constructive help. By taking the time to communicate his goals for the flight they are all working toward common goals.

Communication begets coordination. On the volleyball court it's a delight to see each person playing their zone, and reflexively moving to support or setting up the big plays. On the court, in the Missile Warning Ops Center or back in the staff area, coordination among the "specialists" generates better ideas, more ideas, and then the optimal solutions form more quickly as open communication ensures all the key pieces are on the table. Furthermore, a subtle confidence will emerge. This confidence, born from communication and coordination, manifests itself as a willingness to reach out farther for more assistance like an expanding bubble. There's more talk with our sister unit at Beale AFB, more reach back to Peterson, and especially more interaction with our most important mission partners here at Thule.

The beauty of hustle by a team is that it's the clearest form of selflessness, and the better the team performs the more each person hustles because they are eager to score again. It feeds on itself on the court and in the office. Clearly, some folks will need a push, and as the team strengthens that push comes from within the team, not from the coach or the commander. Hustle compels people to push for better performance, stronger alignment to the team's goals, and importantly greater discipline, focus and productivity.

The bump, set, spike of teamwork - communication, coordination and hustle - are essential elements for leaders to work on with their teams. Leaders go looking for those barriers to performance, find and cultivate players that know how to break through them, and lay out clear goals. As the team performs more cohesively, leaders can raise the bar knowing that output will intensify with the challenges. Finally, great leaders get on the court because they know you can't lead from the bench. Clearly, communication, coordination and hustle aren't everything but after practice these team skills lead to a group's ability to perform far more complex feats than volleyball. After all, that's when your team really starts scoring points.