Is Teamwork a dead concept?

After writing my last article about leadership I was reminded about an article I used in one of the classes I teach and thought it would fit here.  The article below is by Dr Alan Weiss and hits a nerve in the dog eat dog world we live in and reflects on the journey we take when crawling our way to the top. But as Dr. Weiss outlines in the article below, it doesn’t have to be that way and I couldn’t agree more with what he has written.

By Dr. Alan Weiss, Ph.d


I’m sitting poolside at the Marriott Resort in Lihue, Kauai. There are four waterfalls embracing five Jacuzzis, a bridge connecting to an island in the middle of the pool, and enough palm trees to constitute a coconut plantation, shielding the pool from the Pacific. But I’m focused on a small patch of ground beside my chair where my wife has accidentally dropped a two-inch piece of bread from her lunch. There are eight dove-like birds focused quite determinedly on devouring this manna.

Yet unlike most birds I’ve seen, from pigeons to sea gulls, they are not fighting over the morsel, but cooperating. The birds form a disciplined circle around the bread, reminiscent of a rugby scrum, but without the eye-gouging violence. As the crust is pecked and flipped around, the scrum moves to new locations, always intent on surrounding the bread, now progressively disappearing under the jack-hammer attacks of the syncopated beaks. The eight birds all eat heartily. Other doves, on the perimeter, make no attempt to horn-in. There is no room. Nor is there any apparent animosity. These birds are engaged in a win-win exercise.

Finally, the remnant of bread is tossed inadvertently (I presume) well outside the scrum, where a lone sparrow, biding his time, grabs the gift and flies away as though jet- propelled. The doves seem to shrug it off, gather up the remaining crumbs, and wander off to search under other lounge chairs. They form a well-organized search party, and head toward what appears to be a lone French fry. For a longer time than I like to admit I viewed the world as a zero-sum game. If I were going to “win,” then you had to “lose.” And if you were “winning,” then I must surely be losing. Too often I would deride others to elevate myself, which is not really an elevation but actually a descent. There is a thin line between healthy competition and malice aforethought.

Life is not an athletic event. There should be more than one “winner.” Success should encourage benevolence and philanthropy, not victory dances and “high fives.” With rare exception, we are neither hunting for scarce food nor protecting remote safe havens. The doves knew that there were plenty of spilled lunches in their territory, and that it was dysfunctional to argue and fight. Cooperation meant moderate shares in numerous meals with no stress and no damage.

We do ourselves too much stress and too much damage when we insist on an “all or nothing” approach to the challenges in our lives and our work. When we intelligently share-information, credit, preferences, earnings, victories, comfort, and other trappings of power-we elevate everyone, including ourselves.

The greatest business leaders I’ve ever seen as a consultant are those who personally accept responsibility for failure but generously share credit for success. Their subordinates, peers, and friends support them without reservation and will follow their lead in any direction. There is enough bread for us all. Let’s not peck at our colleagues over a crust.

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About Joe Melle

Joe Melle has founded and ran several successful businesses, and has had an interesting career in direct contact media, call center operations, sales operations, customer service operations, customer retention, and quality assurance; he has written over 140 business articles, previously served as a part time adjunct professor for a university teaching business, marketing, and management courses to both graduate and post graduate students.Email Me

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