One of the messages we deliver in many client meetings is, “Look around the table. Ask yourself, ‘What can I do to help everyone else at this table be a superstar?’”
Too often in corporate culture, we focus exclusively on our job, our role, our responsibilities. We never pick our head up to see what support the other people on our team need to succeed. Yet, this attitude negates the entire notion of a “team” since we are acting as separate individuals, not as a collective whole.
On high-performing teams, team members pick their heads up so they can see opportunities to proactively help each other.
For example, a VP of Sales might consider, “What can I do to help the VP of Marketing really knock it out of the park? Maybe if I provide more detailed feedback from my customer sales calls, Marketing can better target their campaigns to attract the customers we want.” The ensuing discussion might confirm this thought, refine it, or uncover other ways that Sales can help Marketing succeed.
Or, again, a development team might notice in their weekly progress meeting that one member is missing his deliverables. Discussion might reveal that the team member is currently overloaded. Rather than berate or castigate the team member, the others jump in to provide temporary help with the overloaded member’s responsibilities. By doing so, the team as a whole can succeed in meeting its goals.
The willingness to go the extra mile for each other builds tremendous cohesion and health on a team because it creates a culture of trust. If I know that you have my back, I am willing to discuss anything – problems, challenges, or opportunities – with candor.
Once, we were brought in to coach a leadership team that had discovered the hard way why it is important to have a “team first” mindset and to proactively seek to help each other. On this team, the head of Sales had a potentially huge opportunity on the line. The leadership team, however, was not in the habit of working as a unified team. Consequently, the head of Sales decided to keep the opportunity close to the vest until it was near completion because he wanted sole credit for the sale.
What actually happened was that the opportunity never came to fruition because the Sales leader had not considered the operational and staffing challenges associated with the scope of the project. He therefore had to scale back at the last moment on what he had initially promised to the prospect. The prospect viewed this a “bait and switch” and walked away from the table.
Now imagine what would have happened if this was a leadership team where the members proactively sought to help each other. In this atmosphere of trust, the head of Sales would have shared the opportunity at the outset with the team and said, “Let’s talk this through to see how we can really maximize it.” The other members of the team would have offered their insight, expertise, and resources so that, in the end, the customer would be more than satisfied. In fact, such an opportunity could have opened the door to expanded services and markets for the company.
When team members proactively seek to help each other, they demonstrate a deep commitment to put the team first and do what is best for the business. In doing so, they live out the truth that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”