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Pull Together or Fall Apart

November 27, 2009

The downing of an enemy aircraft is a special moment of triumph for the solitary warrior who travels at supersonic speeds and engages in split second battles. “Life in the fast lane” takes on a very literal meaning.

Much like the super salesman or the President of a business, the success of the pilot’s mission is dependent on years of training that is focused into split second decision making. Life truly is “lonely at the top” in this profession.

While our eyes are riveted on news reports from the battlefields of the Middle East, we are provided with constant reminders about teamwork and leadership.

A reporter was interviewing a pilot who had just returned from a mission during which he had shot down two enemy aircraft.
The reporter asked, “How do you feel about your victory?”

Without as much as a brief hesitation the young pilot responded, “This was a team victory and I’m only one member of the team. That the mission was successful is a credit to the people that build the planes, design the weapons, and the crews that maintain the equipment and control the missions.”

Team work – the key to success! Not the super star, but the team.

Shift your eyes from the turmoil of the battlefield to the tranquil waters of a placid lake as an eight oared racing shell skims across the water’s surface. Crew is the ultimate team sport. Eight oarsmen pulling together in perfect synchronization at the direction of the coxswain.

Some members of the crew may be stronger than others, but their energies will be wasted if their efforts are not in synchronization with the team. Pull the oars together or the boat will falter in face of competition. Pull together or fall apart. Team success is dependent on the coordinated effort of the weakest and the strongest, all pulling together.

The message is clear for all human endeavors. Pull together or fall apart! The public might well see the pilot’s victory as an individual success, but the wise aviator recognizes he is the final instrument of a team effort. The beauty of the racing shell skimming across the surface of the lake is the unity of crew.

What are some keys to building a good team, being a good team member, and being an effective team leader? Begin by trusting your team members and assuming (until proven otherwise) that they are as committed as you are to the team’s success.

Maintain open communications within the team. Put an emphasis on sharing information, not just evaluation. Build respect, trust, and confidence with one another.

Recognize your responsibility to the team and put forth your best effort. Look for opportunities to give credit to others. What goes around comes around, as they say.

What are some of the things that undermine the building of a cohesive team? Criticism in all its forms is the single largest cause of unraveling team unity. Second guessing, talking behind people’s backs, and taking cheap shots at team members are all guaranteed to cause problems.

Pull together or fall apart. When you criticize part of the team, you’re hurting the whole team.

The message for all managers is clear. Your first responsibility is to be a good team builder. That means getting the right players, developing your people, giving them the ball and letting them play.

Determine where you want your team, your department, or your business to be in the future. Assess what skills, qualities, and attitudes your team will need to be successful. Then start to put the team together that will get you where you want to be.

The major reason people don’t succeed in a job isn’t lack of ability. Skills and ability are fairly easy to quantify and measure. We seldom hire someone who doesn’t have the capability to do the job. Create a climate in which people can get on board the team and perform to the best of their ability.

If you have chosen wisely, your team will develop if they understand their responsibilities and have the authority to meet them. People need freedom to grow, to make decisions, to take responsibility and they deserve the credit for contributing to the team’s success.

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