In Leadership, Purpose, Teamwork, Trust, Wednesday Wisdom

Common elements can be found in all successful teams.

Last Saturday, I participated in a marathon relay race in which six of us ran a different segment of the race to complete 26.2 miles. You don’t have to know anything about running to understand why we are already planning to participate in next year’s event. We were successful! Here’s why:

We had a purpose.
We chose the Run4Troops relay marathon. The reason for our efforts was larger than us.

Run4Troops was created 10 years ago to support those who serve. As patriots of America, we are proud to honor our men and women in uniform by donating all proceeds to support Tri-State Military – past, present and future. Hoorah! (

Even more meaningful was that we were able to honor our teammates’ two sons (US Marines, Cameron & Keagan) with this cause.

We had a mantra.
The race took place on the Heritage Trail, a rail trail, from Dyersville, Iowa to Dubuque, Iowa. The transition points were at different access points to the trail, and most offered limited space for maneuvering and parking vehicles. With 164 relay teams that had runners to drop off and pick up and friends and family of the full marathoners offering support along the route too, the race administrators knew these transition points could be frustrating for the participants and spectators. The pre-race announcer called attention to this and advised us to ‘let the frustration be a part of the adventure.’ Turns out, that was excellent advice (not only for the race but life!). During the race, any negative comment received a quick reply that it was just part of the adventure, which kept everyone’s attitude focused and positive.

We had goals.
Sure, for one of us, the goal was not to die (and he met his goal!). But all of us had been training to participate in this event. For some, the goal was to increase distance. For others, it was to increase speed. Regardless, we wanted to make sure we were capable of contributing our best on the day of the event. We didn’t exactly win the relay race. Okay, we didn’t even place in the top half of the relay teams. But our goal was to complete the event to honor Cameron & Keagan (our beloved Marines). And we did. And now we have a goal to improve our time next year! And not die.

We had trust.
The endeavor offered many opportunities to exhibit trust. There was trust in knowing everyone would be ready to run that day. There was trust in sharing expectations about pace/performance, so the next runner would know when to be at the next transition point and be ready to run. There was trust in the driver and navigator to safely transport us from point to point. There was trust in friends/family members providing support from afar by supervising, entertaining, or transporting kids to their activities in our absence.

Having these four factors doesn’t always guarantee team success, but I can’t think of a single team I’ve been a part of, personally or professionally, that didn’t possess these qualities.

Can you identify these factors in your successful teams? What other common elements exist in successful teams?




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