“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi
A 20-year study at Stanford University examined the career paths of thousands of executives to determine the qualities they had developed that enabled them to move ahead rapidly. Researchers concluded that there were two primary skills that were indispensable for men and women who were promoted to positions of great responsibility.
The first was the ability to function well in a crisis. It was the ability of the executive to keep his or her cool when the company or the department faced serious challenges or setbacks. It was the ability to calmly analyze the facts, gather information, reach conclusions, make decisions, and then mobilize other people to respond effectively and solve the problem.
The second skill these fast-trackers had developed was the ability to use their knowledge and talents to contribute to the success of a group of people in accomplishing a specific, common goal. In other words, they knew how to function well as a member of a team.
In this sense, you and your spouse are a team. When you volunteer in any charitable organization, all the people you work with are members of a team. If you have a social circle and you plan activities together, you are functioning as a team. And, of course, you and your coworkers make up a team.
Over the last few decades, the concept of teamwork in business has been evolving.
We came out of World War II with a strict “command and control” mentality. Most of the heads of American corporations, large and small, had been military officers, of various ranks, during the war. They brought their training into the workplace. Their approach to management was the pyramid style, with the president at the top, the senior executives below him, the junior executives below them, and so on – all the way down to the workers and support staff who made up the base of the pyramid. The orders traveled in one direction: downward. Information filtered up slowly. People were expected to do their job, collect their paycheck, and be satisfied.
However, with the advent of the computer age and, thus, the increasing complexity of even the smallest business operation, this management approach is changing. Just about every employee now has critical skills and knowledge that contribute to the overall success of a business.
For example, in our office, our receptionist has been promoted to the position of “front-office manager.” Some years ago, when I started in business, the job of the receptionist was to answer the telephone and direct the callers to the appropriate people. Today, however, her job is far more complicated.
Since she is the first contact most customers have with our business, her personality and temperament are extremely important. The prospective client who telephones begins forming an impression of us the instant the telephone is answered. Then, because we do so many things, she must tactfully ascertain exactly how the caller may be best served and who to direct the call to. She also handles requests for further information and follow-up phone calls.
Her ability to handle these calls effectively, to direct calls to the right people, to take accurate messages, and to act as the core person in a network of communications, makes her job so important that it is essential for her to sit in on all staff meetings and be aware of everything that is going on.
Your job, too, probably requires you to know a lot about what is going on in the rest of the company. And the fastest and most accurate way of keeping current is to develop and maintain a network of contacts, an informal team of people within your workplace who keep you informed and who you keep informed in turn.
The old methods of command and control now exist only at old-line companies, many of which are fighting for their very survival. Today, men and women want to thoroughly understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. People are no longer satisfied to be cogs in a big machine. They want to have an integral role in achieving goals that they participated in setting in the first place.
If you want to achieve anything of consequence in business, you need the help and cooperation of lots of people. Your main objective should be to structure everything you do in such a way that, because you are constantly cooperating and working well with others, they are continually open to helping you achieve your goals as well.
Remember, in all your interactions with your team, to be supportive and helpful. The best team players I have ever seen are those whose comments to the other members of the team are in the form of suggestions on how things can be done better. The best team members are always offering to help other people after the meeting to get on top of some aspect of their work. This focus on collaboration and cooperation is seen by everybody and marks you as a person to be both liked and respected.
Many men and women have kicked their careers into the stratosphere by taking on a small responsibility and doing such a good job with it that they came to the attention of important people both inside and outside their organizations.
Today’s Action Plan: Continually look for opportunities to make valuable contributions to your company. Volunteer for additional assignments. Focus on high-priority tasks, and finish what you start on time. Do excellent work. And remember that, as Confucius said, “He who would be master must be servant of all.”[Ed. Note: Brian Tracy was one of the most popular speakers at least year’s Bootcamp. He’ll be a presenter again this year.]