The Power of “We” in Building High Performing Teams

 

Bosses versus Leaders

 

Many years ago, I got the opportunity to sit through a lecture given by an executive of a large company in Atlanta.  He had come to talk about his experiences in business and some of his key lessons learned.  I meticulously logged and wrote down his words that night, more than ten years back, and have kept them close ever since.

One particular jewel he provided which has alway stuck with me was “Seek Results Not Credit”.  Now that one little statement seems innocuous enough but I believe it is full of life changing wisdom, particularly for entrepreneurs, if it’s root meaning can be truly grasped and applied for good.

Too often in business, individuals and teams get very caught up in the “credit” side of their endeavors and they often fail to appreciate the much more important “results” side.  If we look at some of the most successful enterprises of modern day, particularly in the software / SaaS arenas, you will see highly motivated, often organizationally flat teams that rallied together, sacrificed and bled together, and in the end triumphed.  The triumph was not the act of a single contributor but the act of the team, the WE.

Unfortunately, often times the WE gets overlooked and organizations fall into what my wife and I like to call the “pronoun game”.  (Writer’s Note:  Since writing this article I’ve been informed that the pronoun game actually has a meaning in LGB communities too…who’d a thunk it). 

In our house, a common yellow-card foul is when one of us invokes a particular “I” oriented phraseology to indicate arduous or more than a fair-share of the work.  For instance, “well was busy with that fantastic microwave dinner, while YOU were searching for your latest “Art of Zen” Adult Coloring Book”  so I have no idea who used permanent marker on our new bed sheets”.   Our kids like to jump in on the pronoun game occasionally too.  “Mom & Dad, did all the work and They didn’t help.”   You get the picture.

In our home, the pronoun game is a fun little policing mechanism that we all use to help us paint boundaries around the culture of our household that we choose to have.  However, in corporate scenarios, the pronoun game is not a joking matter.  Environments that are plagued by “I” mentalities if left unchecked can wreak absolute havoc to business productivity, achievement and morale.  These “I” environments, as I’ll call them, generally are allowed to exist by the culture of the founders, entrepreneurs or executives and are not easily changed.

At it’s root, business is a team sport.  Great businesses…aspirational businesses are built through a loose amalgamation of great people banding together and agreeing to not only help one another but focus on a higher good, the customer, the idea, the next-great breakthrough.  In these environments there is no room for “I”, there is only room for the “We”.

As I sat through that night and listened to this great Atlanta executive opine and summarize his many decades of experiences in succinct and hard-hitting verses I was mesmerized.   That one statement has meant a great deal to me over the years and I think can be a catalyst for great change in your enterprise if you are currently playing the pronoun game.