Here at Cardinal, we are really focused on being team-oriented. The majority of the work we do requires a whole lot of working with each other to develop the best content for our clients to achieve high search engine rankings.

As an undergraduate student, my professors are always preaching teamwork and how important it is to understand how to work with a group in the workplace. There’s no denying that they are right. Everyone knows how important this is, but getting to be team-oriented can be a struggle. Educational institutions try to prep students for team work by assigning semester-long group projects as well as encouraging group study and team efforts on projects. To ensure fair grades, professors will have students submit a peer review, or some sort of evaluation of your team members.

However, this is not how team work goes in the workplace. First of all, you can’t choose your group members in the workplace. You’re working with your department and that’s that. Second, there is no such thing as peer evaluation in the work place. If your team is slacking, someone else in the group is going to have to pick up that work…and there’s no complaining about it. The client work has to get done, regardless of who does it.  This is the difference between a group and a team. As a team, you have individual and mutual accountability for the work getting done.

As I am transitioning from a student/part-time Cardinal to a full-time Cardinal next month, I’ve experienced first-hand the difference between group work (projects at school) and team work (working here at Cardinal). Recently, Alex took us all on a trip to the Ocoee River for whitewater rafting. I knew this retreat would be fun and exciting, but I had no idea it would be such a huge learning experience for me. I learned that when it comes to being team-oriented, Cardinal has got it down. Health Services Research says the Characteristics of Effective Teams are: team leadership, mutual performance monitoring, backup behavior, adaptability, communication, and mutual trust. I saw each of these components executed by my rafting team on the river.

Team Leadership

“Ability to direct and coordinate the activities of other team members, assess team performance, assign tasks, motivate team members, plan and organize, and establish a positive atmosphere.”

Planning and organizing the whole trip was the first step here. We are so lucky that our CEO, Alex, took his time and resources to plan such an exciting day trip for us. Kristen helped with planning as well; she reserved and picked up the van the morning of the trip and made sure everyone was here by 9:30am for the trip to Ocoee. For the ride, Jason grabbed snacks for everyone; it was a two and a half hour car ride, after all.

Leadership was established when coordinating and assigning teams for rafting. Though it would have been great fun for the entire Cardinal team to be on one raft, there aren’t any rafts large enough to accommodate us all – 5 per raft was the limit. Alex randomly chose 4 others to be on a raft with him.

Mutual Performance Monitoring

“The ability to develop common understandings of the team environment and apply appropriate task strategies in order to accurately monitor teammate performance.”

With the majority of us being new at this, we weren’t sure of the proper way to paddle. At one point, I was holding my paddle incorrectly and Caity helped me adjust how I was holding my paddle, making sure I was grasping the t-grip properly. Without Caity’s guidance, I probably would have lost my paddle on a rapid!

Our guide kept telling us how important it is to paddle together. When we first started to paddle, we had a little bit of trouble. I was sitting in between Rachel and Brad and experienced some difficulty when we weren’t paddling together – our paddles hit one another. They key to avoiding this was to pay attention to how Rachel and Brad paddled, and make sure I was doing it at the same time they were. This required listening to the guide for when to paddle, and at the same time paying attention to my teammates’ paddling. After a few minutes, we weren’t hitting paddles anymore, and both sides of the raft were paddling together. Our guide was impressed with how quickly we picked up on paddling together.

Backup Behavior (Or, Mutual Support)

“The ability to anticipate other team member’s needs through accurate knowledge about their responsibilities and the ability to shift workload among members to achieve balance during high periods of workload or pressure.”

I was on a raft with Alex, Brad, Rachel, and Caity. Alex was the only one who had been whitewater rafting before – the rest of us had no idea what to expect. As we were getting off the bus, Rachel and I saw a huge waterfall and we actually thought we would have to go down that.

No we didn’t…phew! Nonetheless, Rachel and I were still quite concerned about our upcoming adventure.  After some kidding around and attempts to further terrify Rachel and I, Alex reassured us that we would be alright – as long as we followed directions and listened to our guide, we would be fine and would have a great time.

The part of the river we were on had a good number of rapids. These were our “high periods of workloads or pressure.” As we approached these, our guide would get us ready by screaming, “paddle together, we a have a rapid coming up!” Our guide would tell us that in order to avoid overturning the raft or having any of us fall off, we would have to work together. As we approached rapids, we would all have to lean in or paddle together.

It was a team effort. If one person didn’t lean in when the guide directed us to, they could easily fall off the raft. The guide was at the back of the boat, and with the noise from the water, some of us had trouble hearing him. Rachel, who was closest to the guide, would yell “lean in” louder after the guide instructed to do so, ensuring that the rest of the us knew what to do. Luckily, none of us fell out of the raft! We saw a few others who lost people when they went through rapids, but we were able to keep everyone on board.


“Ability to adjust strategies based on information gathered from the environment through the use of compensatory behavior and reallocation of intrateam resources. Altering a course of action or team repertoire in response to changing conditions (internal or external).”

On a few occasions, we would go through a rapid that would turn the raft around 360 degrees. To get back to the right position on the river, our instructor would tell us to paddle backwards. Since we mastered forward paddling, paddling backwards wasn’t too difficult. Again, this required each of us paying attention to when our teammates were paddling to get us all back to the correct position and continue down the river.


“Exchange of information between a sender and a receiver irrespective of the medium.”

We effectively communicated with each other during the trip down the river, not just through verbal communication, but also through nonverbal communication like body language, eye contact, and facial expressions. I think the most important thing that we communicated to each other was that we were all having such a great time. At one point, we were approaching a rapid and I looked at my teammates’ faces. Each one of them expressed anticipation – the rapids were the fun part! We loved going through the rapids, getting splashed and soaked. We also enjoyed the tame part of the river when some of us got out of the raft and swam in the river.

Mutual Trust

“The shared belief that team members will perform their roles and protect the interests of their teammates.”

On the river, it was in everyone’s interest to stay on the raft and not get tossed off during a rapid. As a team who has worked together in the office, mutual trust had already been established. We all knew that paddling together and leaning in together would ensure that no one got thrown off the raft.

So my point is, when professors want to teach students about team work, they should take them on a white water rafting trip! Wouldn’t that be nice? I’ve learned more about team work (aside from just rafting) from my team mates than I ever have working in groups for school projects. I am counting down the days until I finish school and become a full-time Cardinal.

Not only did this trip teach me about the difference between group work and team work, I also learned why team work is so important to company success. When we are working on a campaign for a client, each of us has to pay attention to what each department is doing. Sales has to effectively communicate the client’s needs to operations. PPC, SEO, and web development have to work together pay attention to each other’s needs to develop the strongest, and most effective strategy for the client. Operations has to work with account management to make sure we are maintaining results and meeting all client expectations. All this coordination requires leadership, mutual performance, backup behavior, adaptability, communication and mutual trust…just like rafting.

I’ve been working here at Cardinal for three months now, and I can’t believe how much I’ve learned about team work from everyone here. Maybe it’s because everyone here gets along so well, maybe it’s because everyone is so supportive of one another, maybe it’s because Cardinal is G.R.E.A.T. There are many reasons why; here at Cardinal we understand team work, which is why we are able to deliver such great results for our clients.