You hear it time and again. I scored twenty points. I got us that deal. I put us in position for success. But, it’s wrong. It’s not about “I”. It’s not about individual accolades. It’s not about what one person can do. One person cannot be successful alone. It’s about the team. It’s about all teammates knowing exactly their roles: who is the leader, who is the “go-to” support person, who is the charger? It’s about a team working together to accomplish the goal.
Essentially, business and life are like sports: it’s the name on the front of the jersey that matters, not the one on the back. It’s the team that will eventually cross the goal line or defeat the other guys. One person cannot do it. And, on top, when one person becomes the story, the rest of the team tends to sit back and watch. It actually decreases the productivity of the rest of the team.
As you can imagine, though, there is an alternate force on the continuum. A force that is pushing us all to either excel or “revert to the mean”, or normalize our performance to the rest of the team’s. Here is the paradox: You want top performers and you want team players. How can it work? Let’s take a look at some steps:
"Essentially, business and life are like sports: it’s the name on the front of the jersey that matters, not the one on the back. It’s the team that will eventually cross the goal line or defeat the other guys. One person cannot do it.”
Let it be okay to step up and be a top performer. In no way am I saying that it is wrong to excel, surpass expectations, or do your best. It is also not wrong to be better than the rest. The point is that you have a team. Each member of the team has a role to play, and each member of the team has to fulfill the requirements of their position. Relating to sports, some are defenders, some are scorers, and some are great dribblers. A championship team has all cylinders firing at one time. It is encouraged to step up and be the best.
Win with dignity. You want to act like you’ve been there before, that you have scored before, that you are a class act. In a sense, score a touchdown and then hand the ball to the referee. There is no place in life or business for end zone dances, back flips, or the brash pointing to themselves that seems to be rampant in pro sports. It is demeaning to the other team, and is a worthless use of energy. You scored the big deal, you beat the competitor, you killed the budget….nice job, now move on. There is work to do.
Stress the importance of the assist or the rebound. In basketball, an assist is a pass that leads to a score within one dribble of the ball. It is a teammate helping another teammate score. Rebounding is about making sure any missed shot is recovered for another shot attempt. The teams with the rebounding edge are usually the winning teams. Rebounding is not glorious and is usually not on the highlight film. But, it wins games. The hard stuff wins games, not the glory shots.
Stress the front of the jersey. We are here to build an organization that is proud of where they work, is proud to tell their friends what they do all day, is perfectly fine checking messages while on vacation. It’s about the team. It is about a total focus on how the team can win. You can only win if the front of the jersey is seen as more important than the back.
It’s time to charge! It’s time to take the hill. It is time to take on all challengers and fight the good fight. But….you do it as a team. You do it together. You do it with each person fulfilling his or her assigned rules. The best teams are the ones that work like a well-oiled machine, where all gears are engaging each other to move the total body forward. The success of the team is bigger than any individual success.
Russell Zwanka is CEO and Partner at Triple Eight Marketing. Russell has led the merchandising, marketing, advertising, procurement, and all customer engagement areas for multiple organizations in the United States and Canada. Russell holds a Doctorate in International Business from the International School of Management in Paris, France. He also holds a Masters of Science in Management from Southern Wesleyan University, and a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from the University of South Carolina.
Russell has spoken at various events, including the Carnegie Mellon Social Media Conference, the University of Manitoba Marketing Conference, and the Argyle Executive Forum in New York City. Additionally, he has served on the IGA Retailer Advisory Board, the Consumer Goods Forum Marketing Committee, the Topco Operations Board, and the Nielsen Retailer Advisory Committee. Russell can be followed on Twitter at Rzwanka.
Additionally, Russell has published four books, including Customers First. Profits Second which was released in mid-2013.
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