During the Beijing Olympics, beach volleyball players Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh were undefeated in their second gold medal Olympics, with an amazing record of 108 consecutive wins. Watching the advancing duo during the Olympic coverage, I heard commentators mention that when either woman was asked during interviews which one of them was better, they responded, “We\’re better together.”
That contrasts sharply with end-zone-prancing receivers or star-encrusted players whose look-at-me antics signal an “I am the best” message. These athletes communicate that their success has little to do with their teammates\’ performance, their coaches\’ mentoring, their trainers\’ strengthening, or their families\’ support. They view their success as solely theirs.
You find these people at work too. They\’re the ones taking credit for a group\’s success; bragging about a promotion as if they worked in isolation; or claiming the idea, project, or results as a sole-proprietor effort.
And when they\’re not successful, these are the same people placing blame for mistakes on others, shirking personal accountability, and offering excuses for missed results. These are the people hording information, stealing the spotlight, and playing a “win” game at work. While they see success as purely their doing, their failures belong to bad teachers, poor bosses, incompetent coworkers, or terrible workplaces.
But people who are winning at working are like my nineteen-month-old granddaughter playing with her shape-sorter. She understands that there\’s a unique shape for each opening. People who are winning at working know that, too. They hire people who complement their skills, build teams that embrace differences, and ignite thinking that celebrates new perspectives.
People who are winning at working understand that each person brings different talents and unique abilities to the workplace. Some of us are the trainers, not the players; the techies not the promoters; the teachers not the students; the visionaries not the tactical creators. Some of us are the cheerleaders, supporters, and encouragers that nurture others\’ success. Some of us are the stars and some of us are the supporting cast that enables stars to shine.
When I look back to areas where I\’ve succeeded, I know my successes are shared ones. Whatever achievements I\’ve had along the way also belong to my supportive husband, encouraging friends, dedicated staffs, and high-standard bosses; to my parents who chiseled a strong work ethic and persistent approach; to my teachers who planted seeds of possibility, and to the thought-leaders who inspired and challenged by thinking.
People who are winning at working see the collective in each success. That\’s because they know we\’re always better together.
(c) 2008 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008). Host of “Work Matters with Nan Russell” weekly on webtalkradio.net. Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan\’s “Winning at Working” tips and insights at www.nanrussell.com.