Teams: More Important Than Ever

By Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC

We are at a difficult crossroads: the necessity of remote work, but an even greater need to work collaboratively. And the way to do this is to work seamlessly as a team. I am not prescribing the “go team, go!” attitude when team-building started to become a strategy to engender bonding, team spirit, and a shared commitment to corporate goals.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging with no end in sight—irrespective of empty promises—we will need to be more aware of and employ effective ways to operate efficiently, given the plethora of technology tools at our disposal.

Saying you are a team player is not enough. You have to understand how a team operates and the various roles of other individuals and how their functions impact yours. The more effective leaders or managers go beyond being team players; they clearly articulate what the overall mission and goals are and can leverage everyone’s skills in an optimal fashion. More important, they know how to share and express credit so that every team player feels he or she played a role in the success of an endeavor.

Knowing how to operate a team today will include skills such as identifying and using an individual’s particular strength; understanding body language (this is more difficult through Zoom or Skype but there are facial expressions that give off hints); examining one’s own actions to see if they are in sync with the goals and compatible with the team’s overall temperament; and finally, showing that you as a leader have every individual’s best interest at heart.

Cultivating Success

Because teams operate on one-to-one interactions, showing that you are looking out for a colleague in the way you communicate is critical when you are not in the same room, in the flesh. However, helping on a portion of a project here or doing some research there creates a connection between two people. The divide-and-conquer approach is the beginning of team orientation.

“Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”


                                                                                                      —Vince Lombardi

A true leader, like a sports coach, will want to hear what the challenges are, whether on the field of play or in the C-suite offices. The players have to rely on one another; this is usually instilled in them by the coach. The company leader needs to create an open environment where feedback, disagreements, and compromise are encouraged. Consider basketball star LeBron James. He’s been playing for 16 years and brought championships to his teams. The coach would have to be oblivious not to ask for James’s view of the opponent or the quality of his team’s own playing.

Over time, James became more of a team player because he realized he could not do it all by himself. Coaches or company leaders learn this as well.

Understanding and appreciating people’s differences will also help in deciding whom to rely on more. There are those with high aptitude but questionable attitude, and others who have a positive attitude but may not be quite adept at a task. The person in the latter situation may be the one who helps the team jell by bringing the team together and creates a healthy morale. This person may also have the ability to see how team members react to one another, not just act.

Last, understand the importance of giving credit to someone, even if their contribution to the whole was not significant. Why? The next time, a project or challenge arises, this same individual may be the “go-to” person to take over the reins. You want to be sure that you have created a sense of commitment and loyalty for that person. It is so easy to give credit; it is simply an investment for the future.  Why it is not done more often, I have no idea.

We don’t know how long the remote work environment will last, or if it will become part of a hybrid way of working, irrespective of whether you work in a CPA firm, a membership association, or any other type of business. In any event, the concept of team and all its moving parts will begin to create its own set of rules when you cannot get everyone in the same room. It’s more important, however, to get them on the same page.

About the Author

Steven Sacks is the CEO of Solutions to Results, LLC, a consultancy that specializes in helping individuals, firms and organizations meet the challenges of communicating with clarity and purpose. Visit his website at