This may seem pretty encouraging if you’re like me and don’t have a former US President in your family tree. If leadership is something I can learn, just show me the textbook. Right?
But before you run out and buy a textbook you may want to take a good look around you and see what successful new businesses are attributing their success to in today’s marketplace. For lots of reasons businesses are not relying on the typical hierarchical systems of leadership anymore when defining their corporate mission statements. So a textbook on leadership may not translate well to what’s been happening in the world of business today.
And, significantly, we seem to be fine with that because the energy, intellectual resources and creative juice of team driven commerce are working and they are becoming more and more the order of the day. That’s not likely to change anytime soon as more and more teams (facebook, google, ebay, linkedin, Xbox and more) are enjoying tremendous success. Why settle for moderate success as a lone ranger when you could be experiencing great success working as a team?
However, to make this shift from lone ranger leader to team player there are a few pitfalls you’ll want to sidestep to be a success. If you’d like to reap the very real benefits of working in tandem, like so many companies are, it’s a good idea to have some idea of how you can become a good team player first.
Here are just a few.
Number one, make the shift from thinking about what you want to accomplish to helping your team members with what they want to accomplish. Seem obvious. Well, its not to a lot of people. You have to be a giver before you can be a taker. That doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore your or your company’s overall objectives, but it does mean that for the sake of the final results, building sincere relationships with your co-workers – your team – giving with no expectation of return, first – will help accomplish everyone’s goals long-term.
Next, people who are highly skilled technically and have made their way to the top by being so often think, wrongly, that skill is all they need to bring to the table in order to be part of a team. I guess if your Albert Einstein, that’s true. But for the rest of us, a technician who can collaborate and relate well with others is what people are looking for. Technicians who are relationship builders as well. Now there’s a success story waiting to happen.
And third, people don’t like opportunistic co-workers or friends. If I find out you’re hanging out with me because you have a crush on my best friend, it sort of taints the water if you know what I mean. Same holds true in the office. Status conscious people are people who put others in a professional “caste” system. That’s a big no-no. It’s good to remind yourself that if you see anyone in your firm as being in a lower professional or intellectual caste than you, you’ll alienate the very person who could one day make such an incredible contribution to the success of the team, you may find yourself “cast” out. And for what? In this new type of regime, the goal of the team is the goal and somehow you’ve missed that because you’re overly status conscious.
Companies built from the foundation up by teams and by recruiting team players are becoming more and more common. Young people get this. It’s the older folks who are having a hard time adjusting. Just look at Valve’s (the hot game developer) new employee handbook to see sample of where team-made company culture is heading and why. (http://www.fastcompany.com/1835546/you-re-hired-now-figure-things-out-with-the-help-of-this-whimsical-handbook).
Teams and working in partnership are becoming core to an overall business strategy and I think its because the world of communication and collaboration has exploded. We’re seeing more intellectual prowess and creative muscle than we ever have. We need each other. And we need to know how to work with each other and we need to be working with each other. Gone are the days of hierarchical office politics. There is no stardom in the world of commerce anymore unless the red carpet is being rolled out for the team.
Simple, first steps to enjoy the rewards of being a team player:
1. Look for at least two others in or outside of your professional circle that you can partner loosely with for friendship, advice and common resources. Take this first step this month and always remember, “give before you take”.
2. Join one design industry organization if you haven’t already. Be part of the conversation for at least 15 minutes each week. Begin to talk to them weekly about issues you have in common. This takes time away from your regular work hours but will be an invaluable long-term resource for you.
3. Organize a regular “meeting of the minds” with those you have common business interests with. This is a great way to hear what others are doing, give and take advice, and help clarify goals to help you make substantial progress. It’s very easy to organize small (3-5 person) mentoring groups on our own and these can even be virtual teams where the members don’t live in the same city or even country. And they don’t necessarily need to be in your line of work either. Most professionals would love someone to talk with and listen to regularly who really cares about their goals and their business.