The Exponential Factor of Teamwork

Jim Ellis

Here is a simple story – one that reveals the greatest lesson I learned and applied, through being with my circle of men.

It happened at one of my team meetings around eight years ago.

We met at my house.

The meeting was just about to end and we had about 15 minutes left of the meeting.

Someone asked if there was anything I needed around the house that could be taken care of by the men.

I thought of one thing, but nudged it out of my mind knowing it would take a lot longer than 15 minutes to handle.

“Come on – what do you need?”

I admitted that I needed some help on one of my side yards that had become a field of 4-5 feet weeds. 
I had started pulling those weeds one afternoon and stopped after awhile because it felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.

I showed the men – a team of 10.

Someone said, “Lets see what we can do in 15 minutes.”

“Well – it’s a lot of weeds on an entire side of a house, but OK. Let’s give it our best.”

With a signaling of “go” and equipped with a couple trash bins and bags, the men went at it.

Like a well-oiled machine, driven by a final result, and pushed by a ticking clock, the men had COMPLETELY cleared out that side yard of weeds and placed all the weeds into bins and bags.

All in six minutes.

For kicks and giggles, after that task was done, someone made the smart remark, “OK, we got nine more minutes, anything else you need?”

Chuckles aside, what would have taken me half a day was taken care of in a bit over 5 minutes … with the help of a team.

There is a magic that happens. It’s this exponential factor of teamwork that destroys time and space – that makes the impossible possible – that turns a field of weeds into a smooth plot of land. No problem.

I’ve seen it other times at other meetings. Recently we supported a man in digging a trench, filling it, and then completed the job with a covering of gravel. His look of surprise at the time-and-space warp rekindled the same surprise I felt at my home that one meeting.

It’s a surprise that never ceases to amaze.

What men joined together with a purpose can accomplish is much more than what the same amount of men can accomplish individually. There must be some math to it. Or it’s simply run by the invisible and mighty power of relationship.

In either case, it’s real, it’s tangible and, as shown by that cleared side yard, it’s provable.

And so the lesson?

Enroll your men or team in a vision, give clear directions, let go … and watch the magic happen.

I have applied this lesson with various projects.

One was a huge healing event that required 20-plus facilitators and a handful of support staff to accommodate the Scottish Rite Center’s giant ballroom and the 250 people who participated. I couldn’t do that alone; I held weekly calls and enrolled all the facilitators to help make that event take place.

A second project is an education film I’m now producing, Keeping The Peace, which supports police officers in overcoming and addressing PTSD while on the job. The project wasn’t moving anywhere … until I enrolled one and then two and then three police officers in being interviewed and in being part of a virtual “team.” Now, with over 100 contacts, and 20 interviews filmed, the project is attracting attention and making progress.

At some point, with enough participation, your project or activity can take on a life of its own.

But it takes that relationship and aligned participants to make that life happen. I could not do any of this on my own. I couldn’t manufacture any magic by just waving a lonely wand.

No, it takes a team; it takes teamwork.

That is where the efficiency can be unlimited; that is where the magic resides; that is where the lessons are the richest; that is where the weeds are cleared away for the new.


James Anthony Ellis is an award-winning playwright, journalist and filmmaker, who is the author of eight books, including the men-focused “The Honor Book” available HERE.

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