The Perils of Being A Ninth-Letter Leader
If ‘I’ take credit for a success, it does not build ‘Us’ as a team.
Every meeting is an opportunity: a unique moment that can bring a team closer together or shred the fabric that binds. Many leaders talk about developing teams, but few truly understand the complexities and intricacies of establishing the necessary culture of unity.
Our team prepared for weeks. Built our story presentation, cleaned the offices, straightened the pictures. The day finally arrived. Our CEO was visiting for the first time.
As many organizations do, we feel the tyranny of distance from our Chief Executive Officer. 8,000 miles separate our ‘island’ from the mother ship of corporate. For the two weeks, we eagerly planned the big day. A proud moment to show off our team, detail our successes and receive much-deserved praise. Thirty executives lined the boardroom when she entered. Her demeanor was incredibly down-to-earth and permeated a sincere interest in us, our locality and this unique branch of the overall team. When the moment of truth arrived the presentation began with an amazing video of our personal success story to set the tone for our 13-slide presentation chock-full of exponential successes, billions of dollars saved and positive future prospects and ventures. As our lead presenter unveiled the narrative, faces began to fall in unison. Instead of the upbeat, positive words always used to promote our story, one word, one letter, echoed off the barren faces…’I’. Although the slides had not changed, the tone had.
Many leaders talk about developing teams, but few truly understand the complexities and intricacies of establishing the necessary culture of unity.
Over the next thirty minutes, 69 sentences began with the ninth letter of the English alphabet. This incredible opportunity to brag on our team, to cement our teamwork, to promote our successes, to highlight our diligent efforts had been wasted. Not intentionally, but subconsciously and inadvertently. This team-building event transpired into a team-dividing affair.
Extreme caution must be used with “I, me, mine” terminology. These words are the natural comfort-zone selection of many individuals and unintentionally offend others. When building a culture of teamwork, these three pronouns interject extremely possessive individualism. Dynamic leaders maximize the use of “we, us, our” phrases to allow the development of mutual solutions where all parties believe in shared success. To fully comprehend this concept, count the times people use “I, me, my” in their daily exchanges. Simply take notice of the words next time you are sitting in a meeting. Now, think how the topic might be received if every one of those possessive words were replaced with the team building terms, “we, us, our.” A simple change to ‘We’ creates a side-by-side stance, drawing attention to common interests and shared purpose.
Dynamic leaders maximize the use of “we, us, our” phrases to allow the development of mutual solutions where all parties believe in shared success.
There is no “I” in team but half the team is “me”
How many leaders do you know who think like this? The true goal of leadership is to build yourself out of a job, to train your replacement. If an organization is so dependent on one leader for success that it cannot maintain success in their absence, then that leader has failed.
Build the “we” don’t promote the “me”
The true competitive advantage in any industry is found in the team, not the product. People, not things. Talent, not trademarks. Teamwork is about shared purpose, determined success and vested interest. To be a successful leader, you must not only inspire others with confidence in you but, more importantly, inspire them with confidence in themselves. Give credit where credit is due and instill in the team an intrinsic pride and ownership which will propel your organization to heights previously thought unachievable.
If an organization is so dependent on one leader for success that it cannot maintain success in their absence, then that leader has failed.
This subtle point, a simple strategy of using team-building terminology, will greatly influence and motivate your followers. It will help build your relationships as win-win instead of win-lose; don’t be overly possessive. Build the “we” to light a fire in the gut of your followers, do not push the “me” which only lights a fire under their butt. If ‘I’ take credit for a success, it does not build ‘Us’ as a team. Don’t be a Ninth-Letter Leader.
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