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January 26, 2013

In this together

Five teamwork strategies to prevail over any challenge

McALESTER — An extraordinary level of teamwork, cooperation, trust, planning and execution can equal your survival and triumph in the face of perilous conditions.

No clearer were these principles tested than when the crew of the AFR Midnight Rambler, facing hurricane-force winds and monstrous waves, piloted their tiny vessel through the storm to win the Sydney Hobart Race, known as the “Everest of ocean racing.”

A new book, “Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race,” co-authored by Dennis N.T. Perkins and Jillian B. Murphy, and published by AMACOM Books, chronicles the crew’s nearly four-day ordeal, shedding light on critical strategies for teamwork at the edge, and drawing parallels to the world of business through case studies.

“Whether your competition is better equipped than you matters far less than having the right attitude and teammates,” says Perkins. “Teamwork is a powerful thing.”

The year was 1998. While bigger, better-equipped boats attempted to maneuver around the deadly storm, Ed Psaltis, skipper of the Midnight Rambler, made the daring decision to head directly into its path. In a race in which six sailors perished, Perkins attributes the crew’s success to the power of teamwork.

Perkins is offering the same five strategies the crew used on the water to survive and win, to those seeking success in the business world:

• Make the team the rock star: Business teams that aspire to excellence may not have the same physical challenges as ocean racing crews, but lofty goals require sacrifice, dedication, and ability to persevere. Select teammates with the right levels of confidence and motivation and a commitment to putting team unity first.

• Remove all excuses for failure: Preparing in advance is crucial, but so is continuing to prepare while navigating through crises. “Successful teams master the art of bifocal vision,” Perkins attests. “They have the ability to focus on current challenges, while at the same time preparing for longer-term threats and opportunities.”

• Find and focus on the winning scenario: Whether winning means being the first in your field to achieve a breakthrough result or coming in under budget, a team needs a clear, shared understanding of its goals.

• Build a gung-ho culture of learning and innovation: Everyone, regardless of rank, should have a right to speak up. The ability to talk honestly about what works, what doesn’t work and what might work is critical to effective teamwork.

• Be willing to sail into the storm: Test your limits before challenges come your way to learn what hits you can sustain as a team. “Only by taking small risks will teams be able to assess their ability to take on big ones -- and to sail into the storm when need be,” says Perkins.

More insights about effective teamwork and leadership can be found at www.SyncreticsGroup.com.

The business world can be fraught with adversity and formidable competition. But whether you’re leading the team or part of one, take cues from those that have prevailed over the hardest-hitting challenges to help you build a culture of success.

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