In March of 2017, Devin Booker set multiple records on a basketball court. He scored 70 points in a basketball game against the Boston Celtics, becoming only the sixth player in NBA history to do so, and at 20 years old, the youngest to ever score 70 points in a game. He also scored the most points ever in a game for a member of the Phoenix Suns. It was an amazing performance and at such a young age, showed obvious signs of a bright future. There was only one problem: The Phoenix Suns lost to the Celtics 130-120.
If the basic premise of a sporting competition is to win the game, then setting individual records don’t mean much if your team doesn’t win. Indeed, the Boston Celtics went on to make the playoffs, while the Phoenix Suns had one of the worst records in the league. You can be great at your job, but if the company fails, you no longer have a job. And yet, this pursuit of individual accomplishments at the expense of team goals is prevalent in teams, companies, and organizations in a wide variety of industries and fields. Let’s look at a few ways we can prioritize the team’s success over our own individual pursuits.
- Eyes on the Purpose: Remember your team or company’s purpose. What goals have you established? What results do you want to see? This seems obvious, but the reality is that we easily become comfortable with the status quo, in which individuals and even whole organizations are simply going through the motions. They end up spinning their wheels and going nowhere, and the result is individuals decide to look out for themselves and do their own thing.
- Celebrate the Team: Emphasize these team goals and team accomplishments. Yes, we should praise and acknowledge individuals and their significant contributions. But look to create a culture where team results are what people think about. Continue to cast a vision for your team’s purpose and direction, regularly remind members and employees of the team’s goals, and publicly declare results and outcomes in pursuit of those goals. When you do accomplish those team goals, then celebrate them as a team.
- Avoid Distractions: Even when we set out with good intentions to pursue team goals and do those things that matter to us, we can easily get derailed by distractions. Conflict, unforeseen challenges, and secondary matters all threaten to keep us from working towards our purpose. An absolute commitment to those goals and getting results in the pursuit of those goals must be the focus of a company or organization. If leaders lose focus on this, then the rest of the team will see that they have permission to focus on other things, namely their own individual status and accomplishments.
Some teams have talented individuals, but everyone is doing his own thing. This can work for a while, but the team will never reach its full potential. Without a single-mindedness on the team’s results, the natural inclination is to revert to individual pursuits. Create a culture where team results are the priority and begin to see your organization thrive!