I once managed a team of about fifteen people who were situated next
to another team about the same size. We were starting up a new business
on site. It was exciting times and we recruited and hired the best and the
brightest people. My peer on the other team and I made the unspoken
decision to not share our ideas or best practices with each other. We were
both stubborn and competitive, and we were most likely hoarding our
knowledge and team ideas to help ourselves look better in the eyes of our
manager in the hopes of advancing ourselves. I guess this was an effort to
step on each other on the way up the corporate ladder.
We sat in the same staff meetings and were often eager to share our
team successes with our manager, but we never sat down together, just
the two of us, to share ideas that made our new department successful.
We knew one another’s team statistics and rankings as much as our own
team’s results. However, we never did anything together to build cohesion
among the overall group, including mutual meetings or team events
unless specifically directed by our manager.
When the focus group feedback came in, it was miserable for both
of us. We were perceived as non-team players and our rationale was
shrouded in mystery as to why we made such an effort to separate the
teams. The focus group desperately wanted team events, even as simple
as food days. They couldn’t figure out why we seemed to get along with
each other but held back on creating an environment in which everyone
wanted to work together. What was interesting was that we enjoyed each
other’s company, but allowed the passive-aggressive competitiveness to
get the best of us when we were working together.
The employees were confused, the teams suffered, and the new business
suffered from our poor leadership. Neither one of us found the fast
track up that corporate ladder we so desperately fought each other over.
Competition is a great motivator when used correctly, and can be used
to sustain performance. Two managers lacking the ability to build cohesion
who negatively impact motivation do not create the most conducive
environment to share best practices, or inspire people to perform.
The focus group feedback threw the cold water on our faces we both
deserved. The next steps were easy. We invested time together on a routine
basis, and made it obvious to everyone that we were on the same
team. We shared our focus group feedback details and the actions we
were planning to do to fix the issues. The manager was impressed. The
teams came together. We had more ideas generated from the combined
effort. The competition didn’t go away, but it was more targeted and more
fun. We began to set the bar even higher when we competed against other
regions doing the same job function, and set the tone and performance
bar for the company. We both learned a valuable lesson that two (or
more) heads are much better than one. We continued to work together
and saw the value of our efforts once we realized that there was plenty of
room for both of us to advance. If that wasn’t the case, then it would be
because the best person earned it. We knew that each of us were now considered
a great team player and others would see our value soon enough.
Years later, we both continued with our successful careers, both still
learning all the way. We crossed paths often, and when we didn’t, we
called each other periodically to ask questions and share information.
In fact, we met recently and discussed ideas about a new role that he was
interested in. He ended up getting an executive position, and I was very
proud of him. Best practices strengthen the core of the team, ensure the
competency of everyone around you, and assist in building the capabilities
of an ever-changing business model.
This book is my concerted effort to share many best practices I have
picked up over the years. Most are not original or even earth-shattering
creative ideas. I have learned that I do not have to be the creator of the
idea; I just need to be the one to move it forward and pass it on. Even
when giving proper credit to the creator, I am often thanked for taking
the time to share with others. Be a team player and don’t let individual
goals or the wrong motivation drive the wrong behavior. You may find
short-term gains by withholding information, but it will eventually hurt
you individually, and it is not good for the overall business. This doesn’t
mean “nice guys finish last”. It does means that you can get there together.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby