Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Believe in Your Team

Teams are resilient. Teams have a sense of purpose and along with that a sense of ability and what I call "identity." Teams project their ability--confidence or incompetence to outsiders. Teams need to believe in and be confident in themselves, that they can overcome obstacles and more importantly that they are not victims but rather in charge of their destiny and their situation.

The role of the leader is to build the team to believe it can overcome obstacles. There needs to be a sense that when working together, the team will succeed in any situation--whether it's true or not, a defeatist attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The difference between the word "will" and "can" is very important. "Can" almost always has an "if" attached to it. "Will" stands alone!

Leaders who practice the philosophy of tearing down team members in order to rebuild them do a disservice to themselves and the whole team. As part of the whole process of individual development for team members, leaders need to encourage their team members to believe in their strengths and to recognize their weaknesses. Then, continue to develop their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. As a leader--using the individual strengths on the team for the good of the whole team will provide success. The process of tearing down instills doubt which may not be overcome with the result being that the team loses the benefit of the individual's strengths.

I'm an Orioles fan. And most everyone who looks at the 2008 team recognizes they are not the best team in baseball on paper. There are some glaring weaknesses--shortstop, starting pitching, catcher, and first base to name a few. At the beginning of the season the team was estimated to lose over 100 games (and they still may, but I hope not). But as of today, 74 games into the season, the O's are 2 games above .500. No one, but the O's themselves believed at the start of the season that they would be able to post success in the toughest division in all of baseball. What's the difference this year than last? They believe they can do it. Night after night as they have been coming from behind the post game reporters are hearing that the team never gives up and that they always believe they can and will win. And then someone, a different guy every night it seems, picks the team up and they win. Leadership continues to instill that kind of winning attitude and for now it's working.

In our own teams, it is up to the leader to instill the winning, can-do type of approach. Put people in position to succeed and develop the team's sense of character. One way leaders encourage this is to build the team members up and empower them to take risks--they may not always succeed, but it is in the trying and the taking of risks that people learn that they are a lot more capable that they thought they were. And in taking risks as a team, combating adversity, teams learn they are more capable than they thought they were, too.

Believe in your team--they won't let you down. Teams reflect their leadership, build them up and they will begin to accomplish what you thought was unimaginable yesterday.

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