A Company’s Success Comes from the Team, Not Individual Players

As a manager, would you rather hire a person who wants to do great work for a company or a person who wants to work for a great company? Think about it for a minute. There’s a difference.

Who doesn’t want an employee who wants to do great work—someone who wants to excel at his job and succeed?
On the other hand, an employee who desires to work for a great company is a team player who wants to be a part of something greater than herself.
But we have to choose. So which is it?
For me, I’ll take the person who wants to work for a great company. I would choose someone who wants to be a part of something really great, who knows that she can only do so much herself but that together with others who are motivated and share a common mission, nothing is impossible.
The difference, to me, is that the person who wants to do great work for a company is putting himself first. It matters less for whom he does the great work than that he has the opportunity to do great things. And I realize there’s a place for those people and that they can be strong individual contributors, but will they ever truly help make the company great?
In sports, there’s a saying, “Are you playing for the name on the front of the jersey or the name on the back?” On the front of the jersey is the team name, and on the back is the individual’s name. Are you a team player, or are you playing for yourself?
I work with an executive leadership consultant who also happens to work with a number of NCAA Division I athletic teams. He talks about the young athletes and the importance of each one knowing his role on the team when he arrives at college. You see, most of these young athletes have grown up as “the star” of every team they’ve played on. They’re exceedingly talented and are accustomed to doing great things.
But when they arrive at college, they are faced with new challenges and teammates with equal or greater talent. No longer are they necessarily the best person on the team. This consultant works with coaches and players to help define the proper role for each player and how they fit into the overall plan for the team.
For instance, his work might include helping a former high-school star athlete adapt to sitting on the bench in college. For the player, it means accepting a role that is far different from what he has ever experienced. Maybe his primary job as a college freshman is to be a fantastic practice player in order to push others to become better without expectations of ever playing a minute in a regular season game.
Successful coaches help their players understand exactly what their roles are and how they fit into the bigger picture. They get the players to buy into the success of the team over the success of the individual. They stress that together great things are achievable. And they get the players to focus on team goals over individual achievement. In doing so, they build successful programs that are consistently at the top of their sports.
As managers, we need to take a page out of the coaching playbook. We need to find team players capable of working with others to achieve great things. We need to clearly define the company’s mission and what we’re trying to achieve. Then we need to make sure they clearly understand their role and how they fit into the bigger picture and turn them loose to go to work, guiding them as they go along.
You’ll be amazed by what a group of motivated people can achieve together if they all buy into something bigger than themselves, understand their role in reaching that goal, and are willing to put aside personal accolades for team success.