December 17, 2013 | 5 min read
What Nelson Mandela Can Teach Us About Working Together

Tandym Group

Former South African leader, Nelson Mandela, passed away on December 5th, but his legacy of bringing people together by encouraging social teamwork and community will far outlive him. Mandela is one of those historical figures whom we will be modeling values after for years to come, especially in regards to how we relate to one another; after all, who better to turn to for wisdom on working together than the man who so greatly influenced the end of apartheid in South Africa?

Even during his imprisonment at Robben Island, Mandela even volunteered his services to help organize a sports program in which other prisoners could participate and cooperate with one another. How much could we accomplish if we brought that type of dedication to collaboration with us every day? If he could continue to live out his values while imprisoned, surely we can achieve our team goals even when at a loss for our next step. Perhaps we can take some wisdom from his quotes over his years of influential writing and speaking to better our own teamwork in the workplace:

“When people are determined, they can overcome anything.”

If we bring such determination to work with us, differences that might otherwise deter us from getting work done with our teammates or coming to conclusions in meetings would be made all but obsolete. Sometimes the simplest distractions or disagreements can prove to be large obstacles to our efforts and, if we can only dedicate ourselves to the task at hand and to working together, this may not be the case.

“I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”

In fact, if we embrace each other’s differences in working style and approaches, we could learn quite a bit from them. Perhaps one person in your group is particularly skilled with writing and grammar and another excels with PowerPoint. Combined with your unique strengths, your team could very well create a powerful presentation that may have lacked in a certain area if one person from the group were missing. Recognizing that everyone in your team each has his or her own unique skills to bring to the proverbial table is a key component in respecting and appreciating your coworkers.

“Difficulties break some men but make others.”

Of course, any project comes with inherent difficulties beyond our own disagreements. But if we can be those “others”—those made by the difficulties rather than discouraged by them—we can push past them and work together to reach a solution. Whether it’s a mild difficulty such as picking a time to meet amongst everyone’s packed schedules or a more pressing one, like a teammate falling ill and calling out the day of a major presentation, there is always a way to use our own unique skills and experiences to make it happen—whatever “it” might be.


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