Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Teamwork is everyone's job.

One of the Leadership newsletters that I get weekly is about teamwork this week. Leadership often focuses on leading a team and doesn't often focus on the fact that the leader's most important job is also being a team player.

A leader is a leader at work by the position they hold. They get additional information because they are able to attend meetings that mere mortals (otherwise known as peons, I'm one of them, or team members) are not invited to because they are too busy working on their current project.
I agree completely. Every leadership position that I've held throughout my life I've lived by that principle. I didn't even realize it and probably would never have thought to mention it until I was reading this. In high school I was a section leader in band. I ws in charge of 9 others to work with them to make sure they memorized their music and positions for marching band. But that's not the only thing. I also made sure that we got along with each other and were ready to do things when the band director wanted to. I remember when being given the section leader position thinking "Why ME?? I don't want to be the section leader of this group, they are unorganized, and have no respect for authority". But at that point I was stuck with it. I thought hard about it for the first week and then realized that there was no way I could ever lead this group, at least not in the sense of leadership I had come to think of as standard in my mind. Maybe I had seen to many war movies, but a leader was like Patton; brash, demanding, commanding, dominating. I didn't (and still don't) have that type of personality. Plus if I would do that, I knew for a fact that I would be laughed at. Instead I called a meeting. It all started with that one simple meeting. I told them.

"I am your section leader. There is no reason that you have to listen to me. I have no authority over you, I have no control over you. All I am is responsible for you. but you are responsible for yourselves. I have 1 goal that I want us to meet even if we don't meet anything else, I want us to be polite and listen when we are supposed to. I don't want us to be considered the laughing stock of the marching band." Then we talked for a while and I offered some possibilities. "We don't have to just not be the laughing stock. We can set our sights higher than that. We could be the best marchers. The best at knowing our music. The best at standing at attention. The best at learning our steps. We could be the best. But I can't be the best. We are a team. If you don't want to do this, then nothing I say will help. Me, I want to be THE best. I WANT us to be the best, and I know that we can be the best." We talked some more and to my surprise, the team of misfits that I had been given decided that they wanted to send a big screw you to the rest and be the best. It was going to be hard. We weren't the most talented group and we all had our problems with authority. So it started. We were going to be the first to memorize all of our music. That night we all went home and worked on it. Amazingly the next day every one of us showed up with all of our music memorized. Amazingly, because memorizing music was always my weakest point, but I wasn't alone, two of the other guys had not been able to memorize their music either of the previous 2 years. I was shocked. That day the drummers started bragging about having already memorized half of their music. I called them out and stated that my team had already memorized all of our music. Unbelieving, the band director put us on the spot. So our little group played all 4 songs that we were marching to, in front of the rest of the band, from memory. It was awesome. I've rarely been prouder of anyone. I think right then, at that point we earned Best Section. We continued to work hard and although we still all had our authority problems, we were always able to pull it together when we had to. We had lots of fun and got together before and after practice to continue working on our craft. We were awesome.

None of this would have been a success if I didn't do everything that the others had to do. We couldn't have accomplished anything if a single one of us didn't do everything. It was a team effort, but every individual needed to do their part for it to work, and my part as leader was to attend the extra meetings, but to also make sure that my team had as much information as possible. I would pass on everything and if they had additional questions, I would find out and tell them. There was no secrets, we all knew what we were going for.

This post started also, because I am (was now at 12:45 AM) watching the Cubs game. They have gone 18 innings and won it. Baseball is very a team sport where individuals all have to pull their weight. In this game, every single eligble Cubs player got into the game. All 10 pithchers on the staff and every player from the bench was in the game at one point. That's a very rare thing in baseball. Generally subs will play a few games, or come in late in the game. However, a team will not have a good year if the subs are not always ready to play. They have to be able to step in and play full time at a moments notice, and they may have to stay up until after midnight to play 9 innings in the second half of an 18 inning game. 12 hours from now the next game starts. Most likely the subs will play most of it, on less sleep than normal. But without being ready and the team will not succeed. Teamwork is very much an individual thing. As a leader, the manager should make sure that everyone knows what's going on tomorrow before they go home tonight.

Almost everyone is part of a team. Think about your team. Are you pulling your weight? Are you getting all of the information that you think you need? Don't get need to continue being great in order for a team to work, but make sure you make it clear why you need that information, leaders will almost never withold the information when they feel they know the information explayining why you need it. I firmly believe that leaders should share too much information and that being on a "Need to know" basis will only cause problems, but if you are in a position where you don't think you know everything make sure you ask. You're boss may not even know that you are looking for some information.