It’s All About the Team (Tip of the Month)

April 28, 2012

The best advice I ever got as a supervisor was from a very wise flight superintendent. He told me that if I would take care of the people, the mission would take care of itself. He mentioned this to me as he observed me in a moment of insanity frantically trying to figure out how to learn every detail of everyone else’s job. It was one of those ‘what were you thinking?’ moments.  There were easily 30-40 people in seven different disciplines and I didn’t have a clue what any of them did. I was totally out of my depth.  I don’t think I cried, but the desperation had to be apparent, because it generated the conversation in which I received such sound wisdom. It wasn’t my first leadership position, but it was the first one where I really had to focus on the ‘leading’ instead of the ‘doing’.

Heeding his advice helped me to discover a few key principles that revised my whole perspective about what it meant to be in charge. It worked so well it stuck for the rest of my career. Here are of few of the things I figured out along the way.

  1. It’s not about you–it’s always about the team. 
    In my experience, the real job of the team leader is to create a productive environment so that the people on your team can shine. They need resources, good guidance, meaningful work and an environment free of unnecessary bureaucracy.   A good team leader also actively seeks opportunities for the team to get the recognition and credit for their great work and to grow and advance in their careers. Foster a team culture where one person’s success reflects well for the whole team
  2. Be yourself. 
    Sometimes you just have to do what you can and work with what you have. Example?  I’m not much of a sports enthusiast. I don’t play basketball, football, or anything else with a  ‘ball’ at the end of it, at least not well. It was scary/sad in an environment where the team morale was impacted by sports competitions with other organizations.  Since my playing on any team would only be a liability, I had to use the skills I had available.   I couldn’t play, but I did know how to watch, support, yell enthusiastically when we won and encourage when we lost. I could help keep score and make sure we had plenty of water.   So I did what I could.
  3. Show that you care.                                                                         Since I didn’t have the sports skills to help the team to victory, I had to find ways to provide moral support. I believe that small contribution carried over in a positive way to the work environment. It’s been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.   That has often proven true in my career.

The bottom line is, take care of the team, whatever that looks like. If you do that, everything else falls into place.

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