Your team is facing a threat…or a great opportunity.
Either one seems daunting. Both carry a significant potential for failure.
But if the team succeeds, the threat is annihilated or the opportunity opens possibilities that were never before imagined.
When the team achieves shared realization of the enormity of the situation, the room goes quiet. Each person whirling with thoughts about what to do, each idea saddled with doubt. Doubt about the idea and doubt about their ability to deliver. “What should we do?”
The team brainstorms ideas, bouncing between creative solutions and pragmatic reality. Between hope and fear. Back and forth until there is agreement as to what is to be done. Now the question hangs in the air, “Who?”
And then, someone speaks up, “I’ve got it.” And everyone looks at her or him with appreciation, a dash of admiration for their courage, and — let’s be honest — relief.
What caused this person to speak up? To accept responsibility for this huge challenge? Let’s consider two possibilities:
- The person is brash and foolish and doesn’t have a clue.
- Although he or she shares the others’ doubts, this person looks around and sees teammates who will share the effort, the sacrifice, and dedication.
Let’s stick with #2.
In basketball, the defender guarding the opponent with the ball hears the chatter of his teammates behind him, letting him know they’ve got his back. The defender’s courage spikes as he risks being beat while unleashing his quickness and tenacity to steal the ball.
In baseball, a fly ball between outfielders, one calls, “Mine!” and the other gives him space so he can fully concentrate on catching the ball, backing him up if he should miss.
On combat patrol, a Marine takes the point and sheds thoughts of his own safety because he knows his fellow Marines are scanning for threats on his behalf.
A toddler takes his first steps and a youngster climbs on a bicycle for the first time because a parent or older sibling is there to help.
People marvel at Navy and Marine pilots who land on aircraft carriers at night, in bad weather, often hundreds of miles from land. They say, “I could never do it.” Sure you could. If they trained to develop the requisite motor skills and then surrounded themselves with teammates who shared their commitment.
The common ingredient: trust.
High-Trust Leaders achieve high performance by recruiting people who are willing to support others and organize interdependent teams to achieve synergy through shared sacrifice and success. No one feels alone. People step up and take the lead — “I’ve got it” — because there is a palpable, often unspoken feeling that “we’re all in this together.”
- Trust is a direct function of interdependence. How is your team organized? If my success or failure doesn’t depend on you, there’s no compelling need to build trust. You’re not on a true team, you’re on a bowling “team.”
- How do you recognize and reward? People behind the scenes need to feel their sacrifice and contributions are truly valued.
- Do you recruit people who have a demonstrated record of shared sacrifice and take pleasure in shared success? Or do you have a team of individual players who avoid playing a support role?
- Do you take the time to instill and sustain a compelling vision or mission? It’s got to be about more than money. And don’t forget the need to sustain the vision and mission through routine reminders. Otherwise they forget the vision of draining the swamp after a few weeks of whacking alligators.