Story & photo by Sammi Johnson

Teamwork, whether in the home, at work or anywhere else, requires some level of collaboration. You know that feeling of forced teamwork: it’s hard, trying, awful, like pushing water uphill. I get frustrated, short-tempered and impatient.  It’s a super cool version of me that no one needs to see.

Functioning teamwork takes patience and is a learned behavior. Give a little, or a lot, get a little, or a lot — seems logical. There’s nothing like a failed team mission to humble oneself, and nothing like accomplishing the unimaginable that ignites all the right endorphins. Team sports, friend groups, workmates, managers, employees, colleagues, and family all require teamwork, and when it’s good, it’s oh-so-good.

But when it’s not, it drives me to deep retrospection. Why didn’t it jive and jam the way I know it could and should? Entire professional fields are dissecting this very topic, and unfortunately I don’t have the answer in this column. I’m basing this exploration on my own feelings and experiences: a long list of trial and error. Leading, or trying to lead, by example is part of being a good team member. Be the person you want to see in others, which is pretty simple. Or shouldn’t it be?

It’s fantastic when we’re working together as a family for a common goal: stacking wood, getting a Christmas tree, putting dishes away, all without a gripe. When it happens, I’m honestly floating and asking myself if this is real life. When we’re digging through it with bribes, to a backdrop of whiny voices and frustrated pleas to help out as a team, I begin to question my “pull, not push” mentality.

But I know very little gets done when you push instead of pull, meaning I should pull my kids into this life, leading by example, rather than pushing them into it, over-explaining it, overdoing every aspect of it, which can lead to a failed team environment. They need to be motivated to care and want to put the dishes away to be part of a successful team.

Humming teams with shared vision get things done. I’ve had my fair share of experiences when it isn’t jamming, when nothing is working. Been there, too? Yeah, it takes considerable effort to right that ship. And that’s not to say that a little low or a moment of being “in the belly of the taco” isn’t good for teams to endure, process and power through to make them better. My belly of the taco metaphor is terrible, but to me, it means we’re in the mix, at the bottom; it’s gritty, but it’s about to get better. We have to grind through the sludge to get to the good stuff.

Pulling our teams through, raising our kids to want to be a part of a team, whether it’s sports, family, work or whatever, is for me the motivating upside of a flywheel that is unstoppable and addicting when it’s on the upswing.

Sammi is a mother, wife and businesswoman. Contact her at