The Fitbit Challenge: There May Not Be an “I” In Team, but There Certainly Is One in Win

By Renee Booth

Individual performance is still important to team success.  It took my Fitbit to show me just how true this statement is.   The work teams do collectively matters, but the collective output of teams consists of individual effort.  Leaders need to be reminded that it is important to celebrate both individual and collective achievement.  

I love my Fitbit, and wanted to share my love of it with my team at work.  I also like a little healthy team competition and decided that a Fitbit challenge would be a great way to help my team experience the Fitbit’s benefits!  I decided we would compete in the challenge in small teams as opposed to individually to see who could amass the greatest number of steps – and all for a really cool prize!   

I really did not have any hard and fast rules for the challenge, other than have fun!  The set up was simple:   office employees were divided into three, 3 person teams. The goal was to simply see which team could amass the greatest number of steps within a four week period. There were no rules regarding how the teams would behave to win.  

After a four-week, unstructured challenge, I quickly realized that individual performance still matters. While I am sure everyone put forth their best effort, I realized as I looked at the weekly numbers and watched each team’s overall performance that  - without fail - the team with members who had the strongest achievement drive were clearly on track to win…and win they did.   

In most team building exercises, team members strive to participate fully to make sure that the team is successful.  Yet in this challenge (and this is true for most team challenges) there will typically be some members of the group who will jump at the idea of proving their leadership (or in this case, their physical) capabilities. One of the teams had a serious athlete and runner, and his achievement drive kicked into full gear! To them, challenges like this are akin to loving gym in middle school – they are not seen as hard work.   They dive into the challenge, raring to go, and don’t mind pulling their partners into the race and keeping them there, so to speak.   They keep the momentum going, serve as role models for less engaged (or less physically active) team members, and generally are an inspiration to the team.   

Now, think of the people who take their company softball team seriously.  Most softball teams have at least one person who hasn’t managed to hit a ball all year, yet they show up at every game to cheer the team and enjoy the company of their colleagues. Both are critical to team success, even though the output of their effort may be viewed and measured differently.   Yet, both matter and both types of support are critical.   In our Fitbit challenge, it was great to see the support the small teams gave each other – even those who clearly weren’t hitting their daily steps!!   Just like the person who never hits the ball, our star runner was able to help his team win and his performance literally paved the way for their win.  

You need star performers and you need cheerleaders on a team.  Both are critical to team success. Both play a critical role.  Even when you feel like the bulk of the work falls on your shoulder, you still need a team of supporters who can help you carry the load, literally.   

The challenge was fun, yet led to many insights. Our losing teams weren’t discouraged because they did not win, or because they did not have a ‘star’ on their team.  Very cohesive groups don’t tend to harbor hard feelings about the success of others.  If anything, they seek to learn from the winners.   The important thing is that participating in challenges like this has exponential benefits and inspires and motivates everyone on the team.  Even our staff members’ families use the Fitbit and are paying closer attention to their health as well – as are all of us in the office.  It was truly a bonding experience for us, and still is.    

The idea of teambuilding is to bring people together in challenging situations with the hope that the team will be stronger as a result of the experience.  All teams consists of both stars and supporting cast, and all are valuable.  We can certainly attest to the value of this experience, and I encourage you to engage your team in a similar challenge too!  You won’t regret it.

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