In 2006, I played in a recreational basketball league at Philadelphia Sports Clubs in Chalfont, PA. I played in both the “A” and “B” leagues the gym offered, and my teams were good — but it wasn’t good enough.
Being that I was already a professional player at this time, and I was playing in a recreational basketball league in the winter (when most pro players are on their pro teams and playing), I shouldn’t have expected much.
From the players on my team, all of whom had been pro at something other than basketball for some time, I didn’t get much. We lost games to teams who didn’t have any players who were half my caliber – but were much better than all of my teammates.
I didn’t share that story to blame them; as the team’s best player, it was my responsibility more than anyone’s to make us victorious. I’m sharing this to illustrate how a team with one strong member isn’t a very formidable team, no matter how good that one person is.
If you’ve ever watched National Geographic and saw those shows where the cameras follow a lion, you know what can sometimes happen after a kill: the hyenas come around.
[dt_quote type=”blockquote” font_size=”h4″ animation=”none” background=”plain”]55 Daily People Skills: Be A Better People Person, Starting TODAY[/dt_quote]
None of these hyenas would be crazy enough to challenge the lion alone; that would mean a sure and speedy death. But, in that pack of 10 hyenas, they combine to separate the lion from his meal and get one for themselves.
Michael Jordan was widely recognized at the best player in all of basketball as early as 1987, but his team’s didn’t win championships until 1991. The Detroit Pistons, who didn’t have a single player who could personally match Jordan’s ability, continuously beat the Bulls even as MJ went off and did his usual spectacular feats. It wasn’t until the rest of Jordan’s Bulls teammates stepped up these games that Chicago would break through.
You may, right now, be on a team where you feel you’re all alone.
You know you’re good at what you do, but there’s no one else on the team who’s equally good. You don’t trust anyone to deliver at the level you need them to, and thus can’t depend on anyone.
Since feelings are contagious, they know how you feel even when you don’t say it, and the whole structure is currently crumbling around your team.
Understand that, great as you may be, unless you can empower and inspire some people around you to also be great, you are the most vulnerable one out of everybody.
How, you may ask?
If your team is attacked, the enemy won’t go after the weakest link in the chain – there are too many to choose from. They will go after the strongest link in the chain, knowing that once that’s broken, the rest of it will fall easily. You have a target on your head. If and when your team comes under siege, you’ll be all alone again – and not in a good way.
Here are some steps to start empowering your people now.
- Give work to your team members that stretches their abilities. In basketball, this could be simply passing the ball to a teammate more often, and seeing what he was going to do with it. In business, it could mean tabbing someone to lead a project or make a presentation. Often you’ll find this person had skills they’d been waiting to show off all along. Give people a chance to step up and you’ll be surprised at how they deliver.
- Stop doing it all by yourself and let them help you. This point is most often almost needed by headstrong leaders who don’t have the patience to teach and empower others. Michael Jordan himself had to be coaxed into sharing the ball more to make the Bulls’ attack less predictable than the Michael-Michael-Michael strategy they had been using. At work, you may need to start delegating tasks that are teachable so you can do more of what only you can do.
- Express to your team that you believe in them. Combined with the two above, a simple kind word or two to a team member can go a long way. How about a good job! or I appreciate your help!? It wouldn’t hurt you. It will help you – a lot. This isn’t a suggestion. DO IT.
Here’s the bottom line: Your team has gone as far as it’s gonna go with you being Mr. / Ms. All-Everything. It’s time to let your team be a team and share in the work. You’ll still be great and still get the credit, recognition and whatever else you value.
In addition to that, you’ll find yourself winning more.