“Michael, if you can’t pass, you can’t play.”
– UNC Coach Dean Smith to Michael Jordan as a freshman
I’m sitting at my 10 year old daughter’s basketball practice and one thing is crystal clear. There is no one-most-important-person on this team. If they don’t communicate and have a sense of each others’ abilities, they aren’t effective.
If one girl makes an error, and the rest of the team reacts with negativity, it’s contagious. If the same error is taken in stride, the team swoops in, recovers, and the play continues, sometimes with even better results.
It’s also obvious that not everyone can have the same role. You can’t have a team of 3-point shooters and no one to rebound. And most obviously, no matter how skilled the player, she cannot play the game alone.
So why the heck am I talking about basketball?
Because sports rule in defining “Team.”
And take it from someone who has spent much of her life in hospitals, we need a little more team in the workplace!
Don’t Be a Ball Hog
If you’ve ever played sports or watched your kids play sports, you know how painful it is to watch someone hog the ball.
Or maybe you’ve sat in a conference where a speaker runs well over her allotted time? Yep, Ball Hog.
Ball hogs are not leaders or the indispensable team members Seth Godin examines in his book, Linchpins. They are people who may take more pride in their title than their work. Who alienate great team members for fear of their strong ideas and enthusiasm.
They have I-Vision.
I-Vision people and companies are motivated by fear. By fear of competition, fear of failure, fear of relinquishing control to anyone other than the I-Leader.
I spotted an I-Vision girl while watching a junior high basketball game. She was talented, yes. However, she was happy only when she scored. When a teammate scored, she scowled. When a teammate made an error, she was verbally irate and demanded she get the ball. It was pitiful really. And she didn’t seem to notice that she wasn’t having any fun at all.
So here’s the thing:
People with I-vision don’t survive in a great team, company, or even as their own company because there are very few things we accomplish in isolation. And because an innate fear of the competition seeps into the crevices of the I-Vision person/company and causes creativity to decay.
Learn to Pass the Ball
Are you a cherished team member? Do people pass the ball to you and you to them? Is your humanity or vision obvious by the way you connect with others?
In my job at the hospital, if it’s time for me to be at a meeting yet my coworkers in the NICU need my help with a baby, I help. And they do the same for me. We have a level of trust that every team needs.
I may be 15 minutes late for the meeting. But my boss knows that our team in the NICU puts patient care first (as it should be). There is no question that I intended to be at the meeting on time. It’s understood. Just as Jeanne Bliss, author of I Love You More Than My Dog states, “Congruence of heart and habit form the backbone of beloved companies.”
This is not the mantra of a Ball Hog. It’s the mantra of a great team, a boss who gets it, an employee who is given the space to create contagious and genuine connections.
Do you have it?
We-vision people swoop in when there are challenges, celebrate individual and group successes and are authentic in their mission, their work, and their lives.
It’s important to know who these We-Vision people are. You want to work with them, employ them or work for them. The public can pick out companies that have We-Vision. They love them. And they buy from them over and over again.
Here are 3 ways to recognize people with We-Vision:
1) We-Vision people are generous.
They do not hoard their expertise. They find joy in sharing it. This comes back to them tenfold. We-Vision people love the thrill of competition. They are expert at letting go of the fear. And they pass the ball.
2) We-Vision people see the big picture.
It is clear in any workplace that nothing would function if any given department decided not to show up that day.
If you work for a We-Vision company you know you are a valuable part of it regardless of your position. And the leaders are not so busy adjusting their I-Vision goggles that they can’t see the amazing people all around them. These leaders have peripheral vision.
3) We-Vision people are fun!
AND they work hard. There is a spirit of forward motion, unity and excitement around them. They clearly enjoy what they’re doing. And serving the vision enhances the bottom line, not vice versa.
The coolest thing about We-Vision is this: when you see a great team, or you’re part of one, you never know who will surprise you and sink a 3 pointer at the buzzer in overtime.
And the crowd goes wild.
Sue Ludwig is the President and Founder of the National Association of Neonatal Therapists. She is a consultant to neonatal intensive care units around the country, a national speaker, and a published poet. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.
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