Teamwork Lessons from the Avengers
By Ruth Brajevich
CMO for Ware Malcomb
At one of our recent leadership meetings, I wanted to talk to our team about the importance of teamwork as we grow. Let’s face it, who wants to sit through one more talk filled with sports analogies?
My 12- and 14-year-old sons inspired me to take a different approach. We are a family who likes superheroes. As a kid, I must have dressed up at least 4 times as Wonder Woman for Halloween. My boys love Captain America and Ironman. So, while watching The Avengers, I noticed a story unfolding about teamwork.
If you haven’t seen the movie, here is a quick trailer that gives you the overall storyline.
Here are my 7 lessons about teamwork from The Avengers:
Lesson 1: Just because you call a group a team, doesn’t make them a team.
In the film, the superheroes don’t start out as a team. Like many other teams, the Avengers are just a group of people assembled together until they realize two things: not only must they unite under a common mission, vision, and set of values, but the team’s success hinges upon the success of each member, not just one or two. Without this philosophy, teamwork doesn’t go any further than using the term.
Each team member brings specific talents to the group. In the Avengers, they are obvious and each one has a slightly different super power. It is crucial to understand the value of each team member’s unique abilities and help leverage their strengths.
Lesson 3: Teamwork necessitates that you put aside your ego and do what is best for the team.
What is best for a team’s mission may not match up with what can further our own desires or goals. Though Iron Man has been successful on his own in the past, eventually putting aside his own ego ultimately served the Avenger’s goal far better. When you become part of a team, it is important that you start thinking as a teammate rather than a free agent.
Lesson 4: Fighting and blaming your teammates is a recipe for failure, but your enemies love it.
A team of high performers will undoubtedly disagree. Unlike the Avengers in the scene above, it is important that teams don’t turn disagreement into a fight that wastes time and ultimately harms the team dynamic. While working through conflict can be ultimately positive, pointing fingers and causing problems only helps one person: the enemy (aka the competition).
Throughout the entire film, SHIELD is the backbone that holds up the Avengers as a team. Their support is more behind-the-scenes, but that contribution is integral to the success of the Avengers, just like the support of less-recognized team members. We cannot take for granted those who help support and ultimately enable the team to be successful.
Lesson 6: Teamwork demands good communication.
It may seem obvious, but communication is key to successful teams. As the Avengers learned to communicate more, they became far more effective, just like the average team. Companies with leaders who are highly effective communicators have had 47% more shareholder return over the last five years than companies with less effective communicators in leadership.[i] Often, communication can make the difference between small problems being solved or being turned into bigger problems.
It can take time to learn how to play to each other’s strengths and cover each other’s weaknesses. Throughout the film, the Avengers build relationships with one another and become invested in each other’s success. Building relationships takes time and energy, but reaps tremendous benefits for both individuals and teams.
Lesson 8: Team members compromise for the good of the team.
Good teammates realize they can’t always get what they want and are willing to compromise for the benefit of the entire team.
Spoiler Alert: At the very end of the movie, Iron Man makes a sacrifice for the good of his team (and the world) and nearly dies in the process. While decisions aren’t nearly this dramatic in the real world, this scene speaks to one last lesson: compromise. It is essential for an effective team to make a difference. There will almost always be differing opinions on a team, so compromise is a skill worth learning.
Becoming a true team is intentional. It doesn’t just happen. While teamwork requires investing time, effort, and vision, the payoff can be far greater than anything we can accomplish on our own.