How To Build A Better Team (& Be A Better Teammate
by Live Better
First, let's start with the "team" you hate being on. It's the one where you feel like you're doing all the work and everyone is sitting around agreeing with nothing. This was every group project you ever completed in college.
We feel like we are doing a disproportionate amount of the work, then we start to not care ourselves (falling prey to the same notion that "someone else will take care of it"), and then the wheels come off and we "lose." If they aren't trying hard, why should I?
This weekend, I was a part of one of the best teams I've ever been on. We raced the Hood To Coast Relay, a 200-mile team relay race from Mt. Hood (through Portland) to Seaside, Oregon. Deemed "The Mother Of All Relays," it lived up to its name. Each of the 12 members of our team, split between two vans, was responsible for running three separate times, with mileage varying from 13.73-19.85 miles total. Some runs were early morning, some in the heat, some uphill or downhill, and some in the dead of the night.
Doing big team events like this over a long duration of time (it took us 23 hours and 18 minutes, averaging roughly a 7-minute mile) reminded me of one of my favorite team maxims:
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." - African Proverb
Every member of the team ran at a different pace. We had varying levels of ability, experience, fitness, and stamina, yet everyone did everything in their power to run a great race. We averaged roughly a 7-minute mile pace for the team; some were running close to 6-minute miles on average, some over 8-minute miles on average.
1) Would any of us have been capable of running 200 miles at the team average?
2) Would any of us have been capable of running 200 miles at any pace by ourselves?
Not only would we not be capable of doing the race at that average, but we wouldn't have finished at all. In order to complete the 200 miles, the fastest runner needed the "slowest" runner.
We needed our fastest runners to go at it alone (i.e. the group "average" pace would have slowed them down). But as a team, we needed everyone's individual contribution.
You can always control your effort. In spite of what anyone else is doing, you can always control your contribution.
This is an extremely important team dynamic that applies whether you're playing sports or building a business.
You simply can't do everything (well) by yourself.
We need to outsource our weaknesses (whether those are hills in the heat or doing our taxes at year end) and amplify our strengths within the context of team. Most importantly, we need to own our role, and do it to the best of our ability despite what's going on around us.
Leadership is not always about directing from the top down; it also involves "leading by example" with 100% effort. Let's take the race example. If you're the "slowest" runner in the group, you might inspire the fastest runner in the group to go even faster if you're pushing yourself. That type of effort is contagious; leading by example is not always being the best, but also owning your role to the best of your ability and adding to the team dynamic. Busting your ass shows you care, and people take notice.
If you want to go fast, go alone. We need to develop our skills in only the unique way we are capable of doing so. You might "warm-up" differently than someone else. You might start fast and finish slow, while someone else might start slow and finish fast. Doing it someone else's way will be detrimental to the overall effort. The Bulls needed Michael Jordan to be Michael Jordan.
If you want to go far, go together. We can accomplish so much more as team. Two heads are better than one, and a team of 12 is certainly faster than a team of two. Think about this as you build your "board of advisors," whether that applies to building a business or supporting your life ambitions. It's nice to rely on others when you need the support. As good as MJ was, he needed the rest of the team to contribute.
The question is, "How will you show up for your "team" today?"
It doesn't matter if that's your spouse, your family, your work group, or your sports team...what are you doing to be the best teammate you can be, and what are you contributing to the overall effort?
They can't do it without you, and you can't do it without them.
It doesn't matter if you're running 5-minute miles or 15-minute miles - show up and do the work.
The team needs you.