Friday night, the Utah Jazz had realized their first victory of the 2011-12 season. One of the young stars on the team was quoted as saying, “…tonight, we played for each other, instead of for ourselves.” To me this sums up the attitude that will make teams successful. Teams are important because they can accomplish so much more than individuals and so much more quickly. Team members should be accountable to and for each other, not just to their leader. In business today, we have too many individualists who continually care only about the size and quality of their own area of responsibility, at the expense of the team. They withhold information from the team, they denigrate co-workers to organizational leadership, and they compartmentalize their plans to avoid exposure to the larger team. These are people who constantly use the name of superiors to manipulate others to do their bidding and who only give partial explanations when asked for details of their projects. This type of activity fosters distrust and finger-pointing in an organization, particularly when compensation is based on team results. Self-centered work also creates situations where work is being done multiple times by different people or it brings work to a halt because team members don’t want to repeat the work already done, without visibility into that work. I appreciate the formula given by Stephen M. R. Covey in “The Speed of Trust”:
High Trust equals High Speed and Low Cost
Low Trust equals Low Speed and High Cost
You can see evidence of this throughout our everyday lives. For example, since 9/11, because of the decrease in trust our government shows towards air travelers, the speed of getting through airport security has decreased dramatically. Correspondingly, the cost of airport security has multiplied. From the cost of keeping TSA employees on payroll and trained to the time wasted in line by expensive business executives, we spend billions more on air travel today than we did eleven years ago.
My personal experience taught me a similar lesson when opening new countries in the direct sales industry. When a team opened a new market, with full disclosure and accountability to the team, not just the chain of command, the market was opened quickly and efficiently. And it worked from day one. In another situation, when individuals insisted on opening the markets without a team, only asking for opinions from other individuals with “functional expertise” without sharing overall vision and progress with those people, the markets took years to open and cost millions of dollars. Years later, these markets are still unprofitable or have been closed without profits.
The successful team was probably not as smart or talented individually, but their collective intelligence, talent and experience gave them a chance at success. The team exposed questions and mistakes that allowed a quick launch, where individuals had to be perfect in their execution to be successful. Once costumers have access to product in a new market, there is little room for error, as loyalty is easily lost in the early stages of expansion.