Stop for a moment. Think about the worst team you were ever on. Don’t worry, we won’t dwell here long, but I am willing to guess that the team lacked purpose, direction, communication, and accountability. You probably didn’t know the team mission, your role or what was expected of you. On such teams, everybody quickly gets the message that “this is chaos, I don’t know how to contribute, and I have no voice” and chances are pretty good that most people on the team pretty quickly drifted toward “I’m going to do my own thing”.
There’s an old mountain biking adage that says, “focus where you want to go, the bike will follow”. When riding narrow single track along a treacherous cliff, rather than allowing the hazard to steal your gaze, you keep your focus upon the path you’d prefer to stay on. Life is a lot like that … so let’s shift our focus to the pathway that will keep us healthy. So, now, think about the best teams you were ever on. Don’t be afraid to include childhood sports teams, study groups in college, a work team … consider it all. What were the BEST teams for you?
For me, the best teams were teams in which I felt personally connected to the team mission. I knew why we showed up and what we were working toward. I knew that I was a necessary part of the team, what I was expected to bring to the team, and I knew the rest of the team was counting on me to do MY job. I knew “the boss” was invested, knew me, and cared about me. I knew that the boss wanted the best for me, but I also knew from my boss that my role on the team was to make the team the best it could be. Somehow, I understood that 99% of the time, when I was using my talents and energies to better the team, that I was also improving myself. Investing in those teams was, indirectly, investing in myself.
Let me be clear. I LOVE being a part of a healthy team and I LOVE to build healthy teams. Let me also be clear … healthy teams are not a destination or a defined thing. They are an ever-present, dynamic journey and they require conscious effort to make them work. At their core, teams are groups of people that are centered around a common purpose. Healthy teams start by defining that purpose. A team’s purpose is different than its goals or what it does … it is the very reason the team exists in the first place … it is the reason the team members come to work each day. It is the glue, and it defines what it means to be on this team rather than part of another group on the next city block. To be honest, some people would be better working for that other group because their personal purpose better aligns with that group.
But WHY should somebody be on your team? … what is it that unites your team in purpose? Your purpose is what best-selling author Simon Sinek refers to as your WHY. This WHY is what attracts real teammates to your team … rather than just co-workers. Teammates roll up their sleeves each day and embrace the barriers between them and realization of the team’s purpose; co-workers wait for a checklist of tasks and feel pretty good if they can check off a few and call it a day. When hiring for a position on our team, I am not the least interested in people who are only looking for a job … because they’re focused on themselves, and they’ll cut bait and run as soon as they think they’ve spotted a better deal. Instead, I am interested in people who are eager to hear our WHY and whose eyes light up when they hear it because it aligns with their own values and drives. These people see the opportunity to grow as they invest themselves in our purpose; not merely claim the paycheck to which they are entitled.
So, a real team is centered around a common WHY … a common belief system worth investing themselves in. This purpose guides their mission, their code, their vision and more; that purpose is why they show up and conveys to others what they believe. The essence of a team is the firmly held belief that we are better together than we are alone when it comes to living out our purpose … that 1 + 1 +1 truly can equal more than 3. I have a friend (who happens to be a great team leader) that is fond of saying “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go as a team”. It isn’t always easy to build, sustain and grow a healthy team, but I 100% believe that it requires a healthy team if the purpose is to go far.
For us a CSUVetCE, we offer online, in-person and hybrid continuing education courses. That is WHAT we do (and others do it also) … but our WHY goes much deeper. At our core, we believe in the power of the collision between inspired learners, engaged educators and meaningful experiences. Our daily passionate purpose is to bring about that collision because we’ve seen first-hand its power. Our courses are HOW we do that. There are 1001 details that go into fulfilling our purpose each day and they are vitally important details, but they are all centered around our WHY. Our WHY is what makes us special … we’re not for everybody … we’re for those whose own internal flame resonates with our belief that real learning, real advancement, real growth all happen at the epicenter where inspired learners, engaged educators and meaningful experience collide.
So how about you? What makes you tick? What cause or purpose do you want to be a part of? What about your team … does your team know WHAT they do or even HOW they do it, but haven’t fully identified WHY they do it? It is worth the effort to explore and define that purpose. Purpose-led teams know why they exist and that why is the powerful catalyst that makes 1 + 1 + 1 > 3.
Ross’ career has spanned both private practice and academia. Along the way, he has built a private specialty practice and grown a few purpose-led teams. Ross is a professor Orthopedics at Colorado State University, Associate Director of Education at the Translational Medicine Institute and a frequent educator at orthopedic courses held here at CSUVetCE and around the world. If you, too, believe there is great power in the collision between inspired learners, engaged educators and meaningful experiences, please get to know us at www.CSUVetCE.com because nothing fuels our passion like rubbing elbows with those who are similarly driven.