My wife and I recently celebrated 15 years of marital bliss. A part of the festivities of celebrating this mile marker were spent watching the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, an event that always reminds me of how much I love music – all kinds of music, from classical to punk rock. I even have a special place in my heart for country music. As most extracurricular activities become an introspective undertaking for me, this experience watching the ASO was no different. Music really is amazing because there are only seven basic notes and all of the amazing variety of music falls within that seven-note range. There is no music that falls outside that range. It is truly amazing.
But what was particularly amazing to me as I watched the orchestra’s seemingly flawless performance is how well they illustrated some of the characteristics of high performing teams. All of the members on the stage were extremely talented musicians in their own right. Every single one of them was a very talented performer and could have wowed the crowd with individual performances. But all of these highly talented individuals subordinated their own talents to the greater good of the orchestral team to pull off an unblemished performance of several very difficult pieces of music.
This is the essence of teamwork – subordinating your individual talents, abilities, skills, goals, aspirations, desires, and interests to those of the team. It requires buying into a vision that’s shared by all of the individual performers. The influence of the team emerges out of each individual being fully aligned with the team’s purpose. But it’s bigger than that. Any group of people can come together to accomplish a common goal, but how well they perform is the distinguishing characteristic that sets a team apart from other types of groups. The purpose is not only to pursue and fulfill a vision, but to do so with extraordinary levels of performance. A team is ultimately judged by its bottom line results; so teams are not the end, but merely a means to the end of high performance.
In my work with family businesses, I recognize that there are several potential expressions of teamwork, beginning with the owning family member team and emanating down through the executive leadership team to the management team and then throughout the organization. There are many obstacles to having all of these team members aligned toward the common vision and achieving exceptional results. In fact, in my experience, it’s very rare. Our culture is not conducive to teamwork. We live in an environment where “what’s in it for me” is the dominant mindset. I encourage you to evaluate your team members in light of the vision to determine if everyone on the boat is rowing in alignment with the team vision. For those who are so clearly out of alignment that’s it’s obvious to everyone, make the tough call and help them find a better place to express themselves. You and they will be better off. For those who are slightly off course, coach them into a better alignment with the team. You’ll come one step closer to an exceptional performance of a masterpiece.
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