Books and movies seem to glamorize the lone hero. As a society, we tend to celebrate the accomplishments of a solitary figure. Will LeBron James win for the city of Cleveland, which last saw a championship with the 1964 Cleveland Browns football team? The mindset seems to be not the team winning, but the individual winning it for the team. So much focus of the last Super Bowl match-up was Cam Newton going against Peyton Manning. The young, brash quarterback versus the rapidly declining elder statesman of the league.
In sports, as in life, so much focus seems to be on the accomplishments of the individual. In business, much can be made of the accomplishments of the CEO at a given company. Bill Gates was Microsoft. Steve Jobs was Apple. Currently, Jeff Bezos is Amazon, or Elon Musk is Tesla. Articles in many technology or business magazines tend to gloss over the teams that prop these people up. Would any of these CEOs have succeeded to heights of business without a great team to fulfill their vision?
Before anyone can climb the ladder of any company or organization, they need to build up a foundation in teamwork. To be part of the team is crucial and essential. Anyone who comes in fresh out of college, training school, or armed with certifications, and tries to be the star will be frustrated. I’ve seen young workers come in and work hard and do a decent job, but they were not working for the benefit of the team. They tended to pull more work than others in order to skew the work order stats, and at times they neglected to share information that was helpful for others. The actions did not reflect well, and possible avenues for advancement were not realized by these individuals.
Any team, whether it’s in an IT sector like me, or something on a manufacturing line, will know when people are working for their own interests. Managers who are paying attention will see information hoarding and selfishness. The more you prop yourself up at the expense of others, the weaker your foundation will be. Few managers will tolerate disruptive and selfish individuals who undermine the team dynamic. Most managers, me included, would rather have someone on staff that is average in skills, but top rated in teamwork, before a star worker, who disrupts the team.
As you start out in your career, or seek to land that first great job, work as part of the team. Do your part and let your actions speak, not your voice. Don’t talk about whether you did this or did that, but show what you have done. Demonstrate it through your work ethic. Be the one that others grow to depend and rely on. Be on time and attend consistently. Be the one to take on the hard and unwanted duties without question or complaint. When things are critical, step up and keep the engines going. It may seem that others may have better visibility or opportunities, but this is not the case. You are building and reinforcing your foundation and putting the team first. There may be times you will be overlooked, as some managers can and will play favorites, but keep the team in mind for your actions. In the end, you will reap the benefits.
The coworkers that may admire and respect you now, may be the ones you are in charge of down the road. This is the team that will work extra hard not just for the organization, but they will put forth the extra bit of effort for someone they admire and respect. Someone may use the team to vault into a higher position, but I’ve seen so many times where the team does not fully respect them, and the effort and determination reflects that.
Team first will set you up for all your successes. When you get your foot in the door, start working as part of the team, and build your foundation for the future.