I had a very powerful experience this week. It really made me think about my team and the teams I work with.
At the end of June (the end of our fiscal year), the leader of our business unit sent a wonderful email called the “Top 10 things I’m proud of when I look back at FY12 in our team.”
That, in and of itself, was a great display of team leadership. But to make it even better, he invited members of the team to add to the list. And the emails started rolling in.
One email was from a member of the team who was on vacation. His email had the relaxed feel of a person beside a lake. It was authentic and powerful. Essentially, he shared the specific value he gets from each and every member of the team…one by one. You could hear the hush fall over the office as people opened and read his message.
I started to respond to him and began my email with the line “I agree, we are so fortunate.” And then I stopped.
Don’t get me wrong, we are fortunate. We have a great group of talented and caring people on our team. But I work with a lot of teams in my role as a team-effectiveness expert and I can’t think of very many that don’t have talented and caring people. That’s not what sets our team apart.
We earn our great team each and every day. Here’s how:
- We trust each other and give the benefit of the doubt. I’ve heard people in front of clients say “I’m sure there is a misunderstanding there…Sally would be on top of that.” There have been situations I’ve experienced personally where someone could easily have thrown a teammate under the bus. It just doesn’t happen here.
- We show up. We really show up. Everyone adds their full value in our meetings, on our projects, even as we huddle in our open concept offices. No matter the role or the level, people feel an obligation to contribute.
- We seek out the value of our teammates. I often hear people asking their teammates to brainstorm with them or to review documents because they want to benefit from the diverse perspectives on the team. It’s not “how few people do I need to show this to,” it’s “who else could make it better.”
- We say no to each other. This one took a while to happen, but now my teammates have the wisdom and the courage to say “no” to a colleague when they need to stay focused. The result is that when a teammate says they can do something, you know they will deliver.
- We are slowly, carefully learning how to have conflict with one another. We talk about how we will divide sales credits on team sales, we disagree about the best approach to take on a client project, and we have tough post mortems about assignments that didn’t go according to plan. We’re not perfect at this yet, but we are all committed to getting the issues out in the open.
So I changed my response to his email. Instead of just saying we’re fortunate, I told him that we earn the team we have each and every day. Of course his generous email was the best example of all.