Teamwork Lessons From The First Thanksgiving

It’s November, the month we all remember how important it is to give thanks for what we have. With the tough economy and competitive job market, having a job is reason enough to give thanks. You might be thankful you were impressive enough in your interview, whether in-person or through online video, to snag a great job. However, being grateful isn’t the only thing Thanksgiving is about.

In 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans sat down to a meal celebrating their recent harvest. But they were also celebrating the teamwork that made the meal possible. Your organization’s story of teamwork might not be as dramatic as the first Thanksgiving, but there are still plenty of lessons you can learn from how the Native Americans and Pilgrims came together to start a national tradition:

Put aside your differences
The Native Americans and Pilgrims were as different as can be. They came from different backgrounds, they practiced different religions, and they had different viewpoints of the world. Yet they put aside their differences in order to help each other and share a meal created out of their collaboration.

It’s likely your office is filled to the brim with many different personalities and working styles. Not all of these styles will seamlessly mesh together. Just because you might not get along perfectly with a coworker, however, doesn’t mean you won’t have to work with this person in the future. Know the importance of putting aside your differences for a common goal.

For the Pilgrims and Native Americans, this goal was a harvest they shared at the first Thanksgiving. In your office, you might have to put aside your differences to work together on a big project with your least favorite member of the team. It’s important to remember your coworkers were hired for a reason, and they all have important skills to bring to the table. The ability to work with multiple personalities is an important skill to develop and will make you invaluable to your employer.

Share your knowledge and learn from others
In 1621, the Pilgrims didn’t know very much about farming this new and strange country on which they’d landed. Squanto, a Native American in the region, took the Pilgrims under his wing and taught them to grow corn and catch game. He shared his knowledge with the Pilgrims, allowing them to survive in a strange place.

Just like Squanto, you should be sharing your knowledge to improve the performance of the whole team. Don’t hoard your knowledge because you want to be the only person able to complete a certain task or work on a certain project. It might make you look good in the short-run, but in the long-run, your employer will notice you aren’t sharing your skills. The more your coworkers know, the easier it becomes for them to help you on a major project or alleviate some of your workload when you’re snowed under.

Similarly, like the Pilgrims you should know when it’s time for you to learn from the wisdom of others. You might think you have all the answers, but the truth is you don’t know it all. Your coworkers are fonts of useful knowledge if you utilize their information. Take some time to sit down with them and quiz them on what they know. The knowledge you gain from a team member might become a crucial skill you can bring to the table later down the line. Teamwork is as much about sharing knowledge as it is about sharing tasks.

Celebrate success
After the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and harvest, they had an impressive feast. Instead of eating their food alone, they decided to share the fruits of their labor with the Native Americans who made it all possible. They had a three-day feast of Thanksgiving in 1621 to give thanks for their food and the friendship they had developed.

Just like the Pilgrims and Native Americans, your team should celebrate successes instead of letting them pass by unnoticed. This will lead to an increased feeling of camaraderie among your team and will really boost morale. It could be as simple as a lunch party, some after-work festivities, or even a small bonus for team members after a job well done.

If you’re not the leader of the team yet, talk to the person who is and explain how important a small reward is for motivation. There’s little workers like better than having their work recognized, and you don’t need a Thanksgiving feast to celebrate a job well done.

Whether your team is reviewing video resumes to hire the best candidate or pulling together to satisfy a client, collaboration is essential in today’s office. Teamwork was important in the first Thanksgiving and it should come as no surprise that it remains important now, hundreds of years later.

What are some teamwork lessons your organization can take from the first Thanksgiving? Share in the comments!

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video powered hiring network that connects job seekers and employers through video resumes and online interviews. Connect with him and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva

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