“The trick would be to find which few of them had the potential for raw power, the nearly superhuman stamina, the indomitable willpower, and the intellectual capacity necessary to master the details of technique. And which of them, coupled improbably with all those other qualities, had the most important one: the ability to disregard his own ambitions, to throw his ego over the gunwales, to leave it swirling in the wake of his shell, and to pull, not just for himself, not just for glory, but for the other boys in the boat.”
― Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” — George Bernard Shaw
If you haven’t read The Boys in the Boat then buy a copy immediately, set aside a few hours, and dive in. If you’re from the Northwest you’ll fall (back) in love with our incredible history, the men and women who helped make us who we are and shaped where we love to live. If you’re a history buff then you’ll go bananas for the classic heroes journey: ragtag Americans vs. Nazis in the 1936 Olympics. If you’re a business owner you’ll most likely envy–on a “Why can’t I build THAT team?” level–that nine young men of no pedigree, a boat-building genius, and a quiet, visionary leader built a team that created something unspoken and remarkable. You might ask yourself: “Why don’t I get the very best from everyone on my team? Why don’t we work better together? Do we all share the same goal? Am I building a team or am I raising a family?”
Teams are performance-driven, families aren’t. Ideally, families are about love, forgiveness, tolerance, patience. Great teams have familial qualities as well but there’s something else. Teams inspire and extract the best performance from everyone. They have to if they want to win. Nobody on a winning team wants to see a fellow team member fail. Individual agendas are set aside for the greater good. There’s no question that winning teams are internally competitive, but not at the expense of the cause. The self-less dedication to a cause. It elevates everyone:
“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew.”
Are you building a team or raising a family?
Do you have an inspiring, flag-waving cause?
Does your entire team work in harmony in the interest of winning?
Are performance and attitude held accountable to the highest standards?
Is ho-hum performance allowed to slide because “that’s just how they are?”
Are individual agendas or egos allowed to supersede the greater good?
Do polarized priorities subterfuge the total effort by pitting one group against another?
Do you accept less than a person’s best?
I know a few business owners who want their businesses to feel like a family. That’s perfectly fine. Those environments are usually nice places to work and those owners have their reasons (stress, effort, time with family). But if you’re starting a business, if you’re managing a team, or if you have owned a business for a long time it’s nonetheless important to have a clear picture of the culture that you’re pulling for: Team or Family?