It seems too simple, but the best way to get ahead is to get along. Rebels, with or without a cause, are still rebels—and they usually spend more time outside the corporate boardroom than inside.
Charlie Brown’s famous punchline, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand!” hits too close for comfort for many leaders. One of the most challenging things about leading a team is getting along with the team.
I determined long ago that I would rather get along. And here are some of the “by-laws” of my commitment to do just that.
1. Choose your battles based on the overall good.
I’ve known some capable people who have played “King of the Mountain” in their office, only to find themselves at the top looking down on empty desks and chairs. They won the battle but lost the troops. Choose battles based on mission and values, rather than personal gain.
2. Yield your opinion to the wisdom and experience of others.
Experience doesn’t always come with the reserved parking space. Sometimes your team members will have the advantage of being around longer, and knowing more about its work, than you. Make room for their opinion and you’ll be making “room for improvement” in your leadership skills.
3. Consciously accept the best practices of others.
A leader is always a learner, even in their own organization. You not only look AROUND for examples of best practices, you look INSIDE. Reward innovation. Praise perfection. Encourage trial and error. You didn’t reach the top of the ladder by skipping the rungs. A team approach to problem solving makes a stronger team. Sometimes when the “light goes on” it’s in the hands of another.
4. Learn to keep still when your first impulse is to speak out.
The most expensive running shoe looks silly with its tongue hanging out! In the heat of the race the tongue of the shoe is laced up. I think the same principle works in an organizational setting. In the heat of the moment, the first impulse is often to let the tongue hang out. Keep it laced up. Listen. Learn. Think. The first response is to speak. The best response is to be still—and then speak knowledgeably.
5. Put the needs of the mission and team ahead of your wants.
When you put the mission first, the team second, and yourself last—you’ll LAST. The coach makes the game plan based on the objective, and then communicates the game plan to the players based on their training and understanding of the plan. The next step is to put the players on the field and the coach on the sideline—cheering, correcting, and affirming. The players may not execute plays the way the coach would, but the objective is the win—not making the coach a MVP.
Getting along is often a lonely task, but the end result is an efficient team that counts you as a friend as well as a boss.
– Stan Toler