One for All and All for One!

Publié le 13 July 2015 Par

This old adage, the motto of the Three Musketeers, perfectly embodies the philosophy of relay racing though, of course, living up to it is not always as easy as it sounds.

Robert Esmie, Glenroy Gilbert, Donovan Bailey and myself, Bruny Surin, were four teammates but also four individual athletes with enormous ambition and unlimited aspirations.

How can someone perform in a team, for a race, when the driving force for each team member is individual development, individual career and individual success?

Although they were fast, our American competitors did not have a particular kind of energy, an intangible and indescribable force uniting us as a team: synergy. The combined lightning-fast start of the first runner; the efficient passing of the baton; every single explosive stride by each single runner: all of it got us to the finish line with our heads held high, united in our determination to win together.

How does synergy operate? When all members on the same team act together with a single common objective as their mission, the results are greater than if the work had been done individually.

In other words, success resides in the combined effort of each single team member.

To each his or her own role

To ensure that a team performs at its best, you must consider each member’s personal strengths. This means that each person must accept his or her role within the team according to that person’s skills. It also means that egos must be set aside for the greater good. And there’s plenty of ego in a 100-meter sprinter, believe me! But if you want to perform together, you and your team must channel your energy and personal strengths in the service of the team.

In our relay races, for example, each runner’s position was evaluated, planned and strategized by our coach. Just like the conductor of an orchestra, he made sure our strengths were synced. He knew us perfectly and had observed our work for years. He knew exactly what Robert, Glenroy, Donovan and myself excelled at. After many test runs, he made all the decisions about the order in which we would run.

In a such a highly competitive environment as professional sports, but also in the business world, an objective assessment of each person’s strengths and weaknesses is essential (among other things, it helps reduce tensions and conflicts).

Trust: the big challenge

In an individual race, there’s no one but you on the starting line. It’s all ego. At that very moment, your focus is all about winning the race and there’s nothing else. You’re there only for yourself, even if your teammate or your best friend is standing right beside you. You rely entirely on yourself and your mindset is all internal.

In relay racing, the exact opposite is true! The biggest challenge is to trust the other. As soon as your teammate reaches the ‘go-mark’, your job is to sprint. There’s no looking back to see where he is: your focus is 100% on your performance and speed to get hold of the baton and relay it without losing a split second.

In my opinion, the same thing applies in the workplace. If you’re forever reviewing someone else’s work, breathing down their neck to check whether the job gets done, you not only slow down everything, you also tire everybody out. You need to establish absolute trust with others to succeed.

Handoff the baton

As an entrepreneur, I have to pass on the baton and to trust my team.

My management style is fairly flexible. I don’t peer over my people’s shoulders to monitor their work. I express how much I trust them and that translates, among other things, in how much leeway I give them. And, guess what…, it turns out they’re far more productive that way!

By giving them clear objectives and by being transparent in expressing my expectations, I make sure that my employees understand what they have to do. That establishes a climate of trust because they know I count on them.

As a matter of fact, I often make analogies with competitive sports. I often say: “I can’t do your work in your place. I need your input. I can’t run the 400 meters by myself.”

I may have the vision, guide the team toward its goal, but unless each member tackles the daily work and commits 100%, we won’t reach the finish line quite as fast!

Whether you’re aiming for a gold medal or the monthly objectives at work, you can’t do it alone!

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