Put me in coach!
Typical of the average Canadian male my age, I grew up with a hockey stick in my hand for most of my childhood. I also played football and golf. I tried my hand at a variety of other sports from baseball to soccer and first had a controlled fall down a snow covered hill when I was 12 or so.
With any of these sports I was always compelled to do my best. Not because I heard the sayings, ‘its not whether you win or lose but how you play the game’ or ‘if you tried your best that’s all that matters.’ Nope, I tried my hardest because winning matters to me. We keep score for a reason, and to me that reason is – Second Sucks! Even in sports like skiing, I am a good recreational skier, but put me on a slope with a friend who is really good and I push to my limits to try and best my buddy down the hill. Because I have a significant fear of heights, skiing like no other sport pushes me outside of a comfort zone in an effort to be better than you!
What does this have to do with business you ask? I the sales world that I spent many years in sports analogies were common. Quotes from football coaches, dressing room signs and motivational speeches from successful athletes are common. Several of the senior people I worked for participated in world class sporting events such as the olympics or Canada Cup. But more importantly the drive to be better than, that was honed as a boy on a skating rink or football field comes out just as strongly sitting in a board room with my colleagues or customers.
I am a Canadian though, and one who has grown in the era of Gretzky and Gilmore. And so my need to win is further shaped by a need to help you win too. Watching Doug Gilmore is to understand how I have always gone about my working career. Fiercely fighting at all times to win and always looking to make the pass so the goal can be scored. It mattered not if Doug was the scorer or got the assist. And each year his records show twice the assists as goals. To my mind, the greatest Captain the Leafs have had.
In the office this same mentality is what brings about the ultimate success. I will work to my limits and then some, I will help all those around me achieve greater than they thought they could all the while reaching my own goals that come from the effort put in. I don’t tell my colleague, oh sorry I’m too busy preparing that proposal to take 30 seconds and answer your questions. Nope, I will stop and focus on what they need. In doing so I have never missed a deadline, been late for a meeting or lost a sale as the result of helping someone.
Truth be told, I tend to try and stay at a level that is just above the rest. Which can be problematic if the team I’m on underachieves. So for my own betterment I help the whole team do better so my game is raised as well. But don’t tell anyone this as it points to a lack of self motivation!
Seriously though, I have worked with folks from other cultures where this is not the case. Where excelling in a team environment is not about raising everyone game but doing what it takes to be the superstar. The lone wolf, the cowboy, this is the individual who grumbles at cold call blitzes, who will never take someone on a sales call with them and can always find some reason not to spend time with the new hire. Sorry, I have an important closing meeting. Don’t want to mess that up.
I would never say no to a ride day with a new guy. Sometimes that always didn’t go well, like the time a new hires was assigned to me and the first day in field I had to stop in my home, pick up my dog and take him to the vet to be put down. This poor guy waits in the car for me and I return a blubbering mess. What wrong he asks? I just put down my dog. And I admit it was strange after that. But the kid learned that life does not get in the way of working. Its all a part of it. Our sales calls that day were as effective as I have ever made.
All this to say that being there for another team mate is the highest form of success. The best leaders are the ones who elevate everyones game, not just their own. Maybe what you do doesn’t seem to lend itself to a team sense and you are saying how can I do this? Look to the rest of your life. Find someone who needs a hand and tell them you are there to help. You’ll be on their team if they will let you.