How to Build Camaraderie in the Workplace

A former NBA All-Star shares team-building strategies for your small business team.
Mark Eaton
After playing 12 years with the Utah Jazz, Mark Eaton knows a thing or two about teamwork. (Photo: Mark Eaton)

One of the characteristics of a successful small business is camaraderie in the workplace. When co­-workers enjoy working together and support each other, they’re more productive, and that makes the business more profitable.

Employee turmoil is one of the greatest pitfalls in business. When employees spend more time looking out for themselves than they do working toward the company’s goals, failure is eminent, retired NBA All­-Star Mark Eaton said.

Eaton played 12 years with the Utah Jazz, during which he learned a little something about how to work with his team. Now he travels the country consulting businesses on how to apply the principles of teamwork.

Here are Eaton’s four essential elements for building camaraderie on any team.

Know your job

One of the greatest challenges facing small businesses is that employees are often required to wear too many hats.

When he was a young player, Eaton said he was running around the basketball court trying to do everything, until one day Wilt Chamberlain, a NBA Hall of Famer, pulled him aside. Chamberlain told Eaton he’d noticed his talent for defense.

After his talk with Chamberlain, Eaton focused on guarding the basket and built a successful career as a defensive specialist. He holds the NBA record for most blocks in a season, among other records.

From a leadership perspective and an employee perspective, it’s important to figure out what you’re good at, and do it.

“There’s one thing about you, one endearing quality, one reason that people do business with you. Your job is to figure out what that one thing is and do more of it,” Eaton said.

Do what you’ve been asked to do

When was the last time you asked people – your boss, your employees, your co-workers or your customers – what they really want from you? In business, Eaton said, your job isn’t to do what you think is best, but what you’re asked to do.

It seems surprising, but he said very few people actually do what others ask them to do, and even fewer complete what they’re asked to do perfectly.

Doing what you’re asked is one way you can truly stand out and impress your colleagues and your customers.

Mark Eaton Utah Jazz

“There’s one thing about you, one endearing quality, one reason that people do business with you. Your job is to figure out what that one thing is and do more of it.” -Mark Eaton (Photo: Mark Eaton)

Make your co­-workers look good

When Eaton begins working with a new business, he asks each person how focused they are on making colleagues look good. He asks his clients to rate themselves on a 10-­point scale and how they might improve that score.

“Your job is to make other people look good,” Eaton said. “The better you make them look, the better you look to them. The better you work as a team, the more productive and successful the business will be, and that’s when the individual accolades will come.”

Protect your own

There’s a deeper sense of team that is often missing in many businesses.

During his NBA days, Eaton excelled at another talent: protecting his teammates. If someone went for a steal and missed, Eaton hustled to prevent a score.

Knowing Eaton had their backs gave his teammates the confidence to go for big plays, and when they were successful, it was a win for the whole team.

Loyalty is a cornerstone of any successful team, on the court or in business. But you won’t have loyalty without trust, and that only comes when your co-­workers know you’re there for them. So, who do you protect at work, and who protects you?

Conventional wisdom says that an environment that encourages team camaraderie has to come from the top, but Eaton said it can really come from any member of the team. “It’s got to start somewhere; it might as well start with you.”

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