Monday, October 4, 2010

Team First

"There is nothing better than being part of a team." Jack Bruen

"Teamwork: the fuel that produces uncommon results in common people." Unknown

Having helped build three collegiate athletic programs and assisted with the start-up of several minor-league professional organizations, I believe I may have a unique perspective on TEAM FIRST. In order to understand the concept of TEAM FIRST you must first know just what TEAM and TEAMWORK means.

What is a team? According to the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, a team is--A number of persons associated together in work or activity.

What is teamwork? It is work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.

TEAM FIRST is a commitment to putting the team above the individual. In successful organizations, individual goals become secondary to the team's success. "Coming together is a beginning...keeping together is progress...working together is a success." Henry Ford

That does not mean that the individual gives up their identity - who they are. Rather, it means sharing individual strengths and differences to make the team stronger. When you look at the success of the New York Yankees over the past decade, players have come and gone - except for four individuals - Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte.

Those four individuals, known as the "Core Four," have been the constants on one of the most successful franchises in sport history. Each of the four has their own individual talents, strengths, identities. Yet, each of these four individuals is more about TEAM FIRST then they are about their individual accolades, awards, or honors.

What does it take to be TEAM FIRST?

There are a number of qualities that successful teams have in common. Among those qualities are leadership, a game plan, communication, motivation, a positive attitude, and what I call the "Three C's" - Character, Commitment, and Caring.

Leadership - There is an old saying, "it all starts at the top". Leaders who set goals for the organization, lead by example, and are willing to take risks for the benefit of the entire group. It doesn't matter if it is a Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, or John Wooden.

Leaders must be principle driven. John Wooden had a rule against facial hair. Bill Walton felt it was his right to grow facial hair. Coach Wooden told Walton that he would have to shave in order to play in the next game. Prior to the next game, Walton had still not shaved. When Walton showed up to dress for the game, there was no uniform in his locker. He quickly took the hint and shaved.

For successful leaders, team comes first--"if we are going to be successful, we're going to be successful together".

"The test of a leader is taking the vision from me to WE!" John C. Maxwell

A Game Plan - Simply put, a game plan is the Mission Statement of the organization. A mission statement is the guiding principles of the organization. It captures the qualities that the team wants to develop, what the teams goals are, and how the team is going to get there. In other words, it is a road map that puts you on the road to success. It is what gives the team its foundation - the rules it plays by. Break the rules and you damage the foundation of the team.

Communication - Does the team understand what the leader is trying to communicate and are they able to apply it to the situation at hand, their lives, and their work. A basketball coach might yell, "Don't foul!" More often than not the player only processes the word "foul" - and does so. But communication is a two way street. Not only must communication flow from the top down, but also from the bottom up. The key is to Listen to each other.

Motivation - Does everyone see the "Big Picture" - the goals that the organization is trying to achieve? Motivational speaker/author, Zig Ziglar, stated: "Motivation is the spark that lights the fire of knowledge and fuels the engine of accomplishment. It maximizes and maintains momentum. Are the members of the team passionate about putting the TEAM FIRST? Are they willing to endure the pain to reach the finish line?

Positive Attitude - In life, it is not the things that happen to us, rather how we react to what happens to us. A positive attitude will not get us everything we want in life, but it will help us get them much faster than a negative attitude. Positive Attitude broadens thinking. It helps build physical, emotional, social, and psychological resources. And it produces optimal performance.

The Three "C's" -

Character - Legendary coach John Wooden said, "Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are." In the "Me First" world of business and athletics, team is often tossed out the window for the quick buck. Unethical actions have led to bankruptcy of major corporations, jail time for athletes, and totally selfish interests placed ahead of team goals. Former Oklahoma congressman, JC Watts stated - "Character is doing what's right when nobody's looking."

Commitment - There are no shortcuts to being the best. Teams are willing to do Whatever It Takes, (WIT), to help the team achieve their goals. Their commitment must be legal, moral, and ethical. Commitment involves the willingness to pay the price through discipline and hard work. Pat Riley stated, "There's no such thing as coulda, shoulda, woulda. If you shoulda, and coulda, you woulda done it. There are only two options regarding commitment. You are either IN or you're OUT. There is no such thing as life in-between.

Caring - Successful organizations have caring people. They care about themselves, their families, and their teammates or colleagues. Individuals that care to give their very best every day--regardless of what they are doing. "If you are going to play together as a team, you've got to care for one another. You've got to love each other." Vince Lombardi

The TEAM FIRST Commandments:

1. Help each other be right, not wrong. Share knowledge for greater results.

2. Look for ways to make new ideas work instead of reasons why they don't. Be a creative thinker and put plans into action.

3. Help each other win, and take pride in one another's victories. Develop win-win outcomes in all your relationships.

4. Maintain a positive mental attitude no matter what the circumstances might be. Bounce back quickly from mistakes, frustrations, and failed projects. Re-group and develop a new strategy.

5. Act with initiative and courage, as if success depends on you. Be a risk-taker knowing the more things you do, the more success you will have.

6. Don't give up or lose faith. Regardless of the circumstances, life is full of ups and downs but the pros know how to keep achieving.

7. Have fun and celebrate your successes. Take time to smell the roses and enjoy everything around you. Living needs to be fun, exciting and present-moment oriented.

By : Thomas_B_Hughes

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