How to Advance Your Career by Focusing on the Team!
This is a tricky one for those of you who are thinking, “but isn’t this about MY advancement?” Yes it is about your advancement and that is precisely why you have to NOT make it all about YOU. If you focus more on the team’s success and less on your own, then your success will follow. The team and the success of the team should be foremost in your mind. Don’t get hung up on trying to make yourself look good. I’m not suggesting you disregard your accomplishments or like many women, assign success purely to the team (the team did all the work!) or even luck (I just got lucky!). No, I’m saying, genuinely care about people on your team and actively do things to help the team (and thereby yourself) succeed. There is a fine balance here. Many women struggle with talking about their own accomplishments at all or when they do are accused of being boastful or aggressive. I don’t want to discourage you from having a strong voice and appropriately being recognized. After all if you are leading the team you are therefore ultimately responsible for leading them to success. (My team and I worked really hard and we got it done!)
So what do I mean by team? It can mean any team; one where you are the leader or one where you are a member. It can be a project team, a baseball team, a functional department or a company as a whole. It does not matter. What does matter is the team’s success and your contribution to it.
Too often we are consumed with our own agenda. What’s in it for me? What’s best for me? How can I look good? This, some would argue, will lead to your own, often limited and fleeting, personal success. Ever watch an executive build his own empire only to watch that empire fall when the new leadership comes in. Often their peers are the ones who topple that empire as the self absorbed leader scratches their head wondering what happened. But, you ask, if I don’t look out for myself, who will? Its simply not sustainable. This self centred approach will not serve you well in the long run. There will be a point in time when those same team members will be influencers in your success. If you were not there for them, when they needed you, why would you think they will be there for you?
This happens all the time. Lets talk about how most often people get promoted or are recommended for a new job. Yes hard work and delivering plays a big part, however, in the case of a promotion, often the leader who is hiring will ask his or her peers or subordinates for recommendations or referrals. If you are a prospective candidate, the hiring leader may ask for his or her peers for input on your suitability for the role. If you’ve worked well with them in the past they can give you a glowing recommendation. “Yeah I worked with Jill on project X and she did a great job. Always took the initiative and did what was best for the project.” Or not. “Yeah I worked with Paul on Project X and I’m not so sure he’s what your looking for. I didn’t think he was much of a team player.”
Your ability to work well within a team, to put the success of the team first, is critical to your success and advancement. There is a fantastic book I read called Good To Great by Jim Collins. In his book Jim researches what makes a company go beyond just being Good to a becoming a Great company. Is it a flamboyant leader who, like a rock star, rides in on his Harley and saves the company? No, it is the quiet often humble leader, who unassumingly, puts the customer, the team and the company first. This leader often shuns the spot light and prefers to point to the powerful team they assembled as the catalyst for success. Its a must read.
“Many of us are more capable than some of us; but none of us is more capable than all of us” – Tom Wilson