To me, the word TEAM stands for ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’. And it’s true.  When the values and actions of many align with the vision of the whole, just about anything becomes possible. Add love, humility and a servant’s heart to the team and everyone benefits.

Yesterday I had the privilege of having lunch with someone who leads with love. Someone who believes that his company’s ongoing success, despite a difficult economy, is the result of taking care of his people – creating a transparent environment of trust where people are empowered to lead and live up to their fullest potential; an environment where balancing the demands of work with time for family and self-care creates sustainable high performance instead of pushing people to the point of burnout.  His vision, values, and commitment to TEAM are clear and the results speak for themselves.

I saw a different, albeit equally impressive example of TEAM last week in China. I was there as part of a delegation formed to share best practices in clean energy innovation in sustainable urban planning. Our team visited several communities and met with various Chinese urban planning officials, policy makers and clean tech companies working together on an unfathomable scale to address the environmental impact of mass urbanization. We were collectively awed by the possibilities of what clear vision, effective teamwork and strong leadership can produce. Equally impressive was their willingness to seek advice and input from others, recognizing that there is much to learn from each other.

In sharp contrast, these last few weeks I have also bore witness to two separate, yet equally exhausting examples of an alternative, less savory version of the acronym TEAM. I have watched tremendous initiative, effort and vision of what’s possible get buried under an avalanche of noise manifesting as territorial behavior, rooted in ego, pride and fear. I have watched helplessly as people, organizations and ideas have become polarized – stalemate and inertia setting in, attempting to take root in ever-shifting sands. Sadly, I have watched as the acronym TEAM morphed into a different meaning altogether: Territorialism Eventually Annihilates Motivation.

So I wonder to myself and I’m curious to ask…

How do we lead with love, love our teams, and continue to build bridges in the face of resistance? How, as leaders, do we build foundations of trust and transparency when others would rather play politics? How do we stay motivated and inspire others to align to a common goal? How do we teach and model the true meaning of TEAM – that together, we really can achieve more than any of us can do alone?

Conducting Greatness: The Poetry of Leadership & Teamwork in Motion

This evening I attended my son’s school band concert, part of a school-wide ‘night of the arts’.  There was a drama group, displays of visual art, a symphonic orchestra, and the beginning, intermediate and advanced concert bands.  My son plays the tuba, new to the instrument after having given up the trumpet earlier in the year, in part, his dad and I secretly believe, to be closer to his friends, or perhaps even a girl he likes (though he swears it’s not true).

The school itself, like many of the band’s performers, is relatively new, too.  Two years old, to be exact.  I mention this because the school and the band are in the process of building their traditions, starting from the ground up, though with clearly defined values and a powerful vision for greatness.  It is a special school on many levels, hearts and minds united in service to create a globally aware and civic-minded community of leaders and learners.

Our school’s band director and her students are no exception.  Tonight as I watched them perform, I couldn’t help but see through a different kind of lens…not just the lens of a proud mother, but a lens which enabled me to see something more at play.  Something deeper.  Something richer.  Something that resonated deep within.

One conductor, thirty something kids.  Different instruments, different sounds, different capabilities, different tempos, different personalities.  And yet despite these differences, the conductor was able to differentiate between and respond to them all.  It was situational leadership 101 in action.  As she prepared them to start, she knew, for example, that one was slightly out of tune, while another needed focus.  She knew who needed encouragement, and who could be counted on to carry their own part.  She understood that each performer had an equally important role in bringing this music to life; in creating the collective beauty of each individual note.  Without them, there would be no music, simply black and white notes on a page.

A few quick adjustments made, the concert began as she smiled at her students, exuding a deep joy from within.  She was, without question, leading from her heart-centered place, as I have always seen her do.  With a seemingly effortless wave of her baton, she conducted these disparate parts to greatness.  One crescendo here, a little more staccato there.  It was all coming together beautifully.  As I watched her, I could feel the momentum building.  My eyes shifted away from her and to the students.  Under her steady influence, they were focused, deliberate, intentional, and joyful.  They knew their own part, yet had an audible vision of the whole.  Practice prepared them for performance and it was clear they respected their leader.  In that moment, I marveled in wonder.  Not just at my son’s or others’ performance; not just of the melodious sounds of the band in concert, but at the poetry of leadership and teamwork in motion.

Along this journey called life, we all have an opportunity to be leaders, learners, and teammates; to work collectively together to achieve a greater good; to be a model for influencing positive change.  As you reflect on this story, consider the following questions:  what role(s) do you play in your own life?  Are you a conductor of greatness, harnessing the collective talent of many, or do you see yourself as a performer, playing your part on the larger stage that is life?  Are your choices aligned with your core strengths and values?  Are they part of a larger vision?  Who is the conductor in your own life?