Michael Jordan – basketball player extraordinaire – once said, ‘Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships’. While practice management and leadership is a very different game, this mantra holds true. In the following edited extract from, The power of positive leadership: How and why positive leaders transform teams and organizations and change the world, author Jon Gordon looks at the importance of creating a connected team
Connection is the difference
The more I have worked with teams and organisations over the years, the more I realise that connection is the key to becoming a great organisation.
A leader must work to create a connected team. It starts at the top. A team and organisation that’s not connected at the top crumbles at the bottom. Therefore, first and foremost, it’s important for the leadership team to be connected.
Joining up the dots
I’ve worked with far too many sports teams and organisations where the leadership teams are not connected. I can literally predict the success of a sports team based on how connected the owner, general manager and head coach are. I can tell how well a business will weather their challenges and grow by how unified and connected the leaders are.
I recently spoke at a meeting where two companies were merging together and leaders from both companies were now becoming one management group. We talked a lot about connecting, and did some connection exercises, and you could see and feel the energetic walls break down. Everyone who left the meeting felt that they would be much stronger going forward. Instead of two teams, they were now one team. I knew they were on their way to success because unity and connection are the difference.
I once sat in on a morning meeting of the leaders at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis. They were one of the most connected leadership teams I’ve ever witnessed. It was so powerful you could feel the connection. I was blown away. It was no surprise that their hospital was performing at a very high level.
A bad connection
As a leader, you not only want to be part of a connected leadership team; you also want to make sure you are connecting with everyone in your organisation. A lack of connection between leaders and their team leads to a lack of commitment, below-average teamwork and sub-par performance and results.
You can be the smartest person in the room but if you fail to connect with others you will fail as a leader. When you make time to connect with your team, and create unity by bringing people together, performance will rise to create a united and connected organisation. It’s also essential as a leader to enhance the connection between the people on the team and in the organisation.
As a positive leader, you must be a unifier and connector who fosters relationships between others. One of the biggest complaints I receive from college and pro coaches is that their teams aren’t connected.
Positivity: the unifier
They have a bunch of young men or women who usually focus on themselves, their personal goals, their social media followings and their egos. They usually have family and friends telling them they should be playing more, scoring more, or getting more recognition. The message they receive from the world is that it’s all about the individual, not the team. It’s about me, not we.
Unfortunately, this may sound like your office and organisation as well. There are a lot of silos, personal agendas and office politics in the business world. This is also very common in schools, where teachers will say they just care about their classroom and couldn’t care less about what’s happening in the rest of the building.
The disease of me infects everyone, not just college athletes. Narcissism and self-focus creates a disconnect between personal goals and team goals and it undermines the team. People who put themselves and their projects before the team don’t build great organisations.
No (wo)man is an island
People who focus more on their fiefdoms instead of on the kingdom are the ones who blame others when the castle falls. Through my work with coaches and teams I have found that, when coaches and players focus on becoming a connected team, the me dissolves into we. The individual silos come crumbling down, bonds are strengthened, relationships are developed and the team becomes much more connected, committed and stronger.
As a leader, you can’t allow people to stay isolated. You can’t allow the disease of me to infect your organisation. In my work with schools I find that many teachers only care about their own classrooms and not about the entire school because the leader hasn’t done a great job of connecting the staff and has failed to create a unified school. It’s important to create unity and wholeness. It needs to be a priority and it doesn’t happen without intentionality and action.
While visiting an NBA team a few years ago, I watched their game the night before I was speaking to the coaching staff. While meeting with the coaching staff, they asked me what I saw. I told them I could tell there was a disconnect between some of the players. They couldn’t believe it. They thought one of the coaches had told me what was happening behind the scenes but I didn’t need anyone to tell me.
When you work with enough teams and organisations you can tell who is connected and who isn’t. You know when you see it and you know when you don’t. When I don’t see solid connections I try to help nurture them. One of my favorite exercises to help team members become more connected is to have each person share a defining moment in their life.
When you learn someone’s defining moment you get to know them a whole lot better and develop a stronger connection with them. My other favorite exercise is to have each person on the team share their hero, hardship and highlight.