I Before Team Except After…

Once again, my Cincinnati Reds are cellar-dwellers for 2019. On an average home game, the Reds’ fans fill just over a third of Great American Ballpark’s 42,319 seats, reflecting the Reds’ ability to lose more than win. There are still gripes about Dick Williams, the general manager, and how he manages.  Six-time MLB All-Star Joey Votto is ageing and hot-hitting second baseman, Scooter Gennett, is out with health issues. Bottom line, sports forecasters say the Reds will be lucky to win half their 162 games this season. The Reds’ teamwork is sub-par. So why do we point to sports teams as the pinnacle of teamwork? Yet at all levels of sports, we tend to focus on individuals, not teams.

There is an “i” in team, and we see it every day. “i” is ego. We see the “i” in team from:

  • Jerry Jones, NFL Dallas Cowboy owner, who has proclaimed it to be an honor to play for him.
  • Danica Patrick, NASCAR, demonstrated her “i” in her expletive-laden rant at her crew in 2017.
  • Former NFL Cleveland Brown QB Johnny Manziel’s ego prevented him from being committed and accountable to football and gave him a disregard for authority – essential to being on a team.
  • Women’s professional soccer goalie, Hope Solo’s ego has gotten her into trouble numerous times including when she said, “We played a bunch of cowards” (no respect for the other team).

I still recall attending a seminar in 2002 featuring Tom Peters. Peters criticized Jim Collins, Good to Great, on 5th level leadership. Peters asked the audience, “Who wants to follow a humble leader?” Immediately Jesus Christ, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa came to mind. I thought, “Wait a minute. I’m embracing their leadership!”

Who you are is a collection of choices, decisions and experiences you make and have. When you consciously decide to become a member of a team, those decisions and experiences get magnified and minimized at the same time. Google’s Project Aristotle discovered successful cohesion within the team only occurs when team members become interdependent. They need one another to get work done! Team members feel safe sharing not only ideas but opinions. The four parts of Charles Feltman’s Thin Book of Trust – sincerity, reliability, competence and compassion – are fully engaged with each member of the team. Emotional intelligence is at the forefront of each team member’s interaction.

When you let the idealized image of yourself become your focus, you fail to collaborate and cooperate with others, the essential behavior of being on a team. Trust, the lynch-pin to any and every relationship, fails because it’s all about you rather than the team. If you fail at trust, your “i” is showing and thus you fail at being a part of a team.

” The bigger a man’s head gets, the easier it is to fill his shoes.” — Henry A. Courtney


What Are the Implications of…

A young man came to me recently. He has just experienced his fourth department leadership change in three years. He was a mix of anger, frustration, and disappointment. He was losing hope in the organization and its leadership. The future concerns him because he wants stability. He asked for answers or at least my advice. What would you say?

I’ve been down this road before including the death of my business partner in the late 80s as well as the experience of having six different directors in a former position in three years! I did survive and learned from each of those experiences. I am better for those experiences.

Whenever I encounter these situations, my first focus goes to gratitude. What am I grateful for? What do I have rather than what do I want? I am richly blessed. On the back of my office door are many thank you notes, accolades and certificates of appreciation. They remind me of the relationships in my life. They tell me I am not alone. They are evidence of the significance I have made in people’s lives as well as the significance they have made in my life. They remind me life is good. They are a source of comfort and fortification when facing Ezekiel’s Valley of Bones.

One tool I pull out when the VUCA‘s are high (Volatility, Uncertainty, Chaos/Complexity, Ambiguity) is Joel Barker’s Implication Wheel. I begin by asking a thoughtful, challenging question, ‘what are the implications and potential consequences of the situation I am facing?’ I suspend emotion and engage in rational, constructive thinking. I have found over and over the Implication Wheel will not predict the future but will yield a guide toward a possibly better future. The Implication Wheel asks powerful questions leading to more questions and possible answers. It creates a way out of the swampland of despair.

If you were faced with this young man’s situation, you might ask, “What are the implications of having a new department director?” Use a big piece of butcher block paper or several flipchart sheets and write out complete, understandable responses on 3M Post-it Notes. This should generate at least five possibilities such as: There will be a search for a new director including having an interim director; I get the opportunity to learn and grow from a new leader; My department could reorganize, rightsize or even downsize; I may gain/lose resources that impact my work; There will be stress and uncertainty in this transition. Each of these implcations should generate another set of implications, possibilities and consequences in each of these five. You may find there are futher implications recognized off each of those implications. What you end up with is a kind of mind-map.

After you complete this, go back and look at each statement and begin the process of asking important questions like: Who controls this? Who has the power to impact this implication? What is the possible timeline for this to evolve? What are the inside and outside influences upon this implication? At this point it might be good to share this Implication Wheel with others to get their perspective. Ultimately, you are looking for and rating the desirability and likelihood of each implication you have generated.  It will reveal the choices and commitments you need to make. The outcome of this exercise can strenghten your hope for a better future as well as a call to action. Additionally, this exercise will dial down fear.

FEAR could be an acronym for Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours. Choose courageously.