We have all heard stories of military veterans who, over decades, keep in fond touch with those they served alongside. I remember giving tactical training in the Army and telling my platoon the most important tenet in life and death situations: cover your buddy. There are stories about Corporate America that, rather than extol the titular leader, tell tales of high performance teams. Some of these Corporate America stories have all the resonance of military veterans.
What is it about great teams that so lodges in our minds and hearts? I’ll tell you: it’s all about love! Now, hang with me, there’s something important here. Echoing my January blog comments on inspiration, in order to be great, you have to decide to be the best. That’s what defines great achievements. But, after that decision, you need a great team.
There is such a thing as lone wolf greatness. No doubt. But not in Corporate America – not in business. In order to be the best at something in business you need an inspired workforce, an inspired team. And only great teams achieve great things – in the military, in business, and in life. I’ll say that again. ONLY great teams achieve great things. What people remember fondly, no matter the difficulty, is being on great teams dedicated to be the best. That’s why it takes love.
Anyone who knows anything about me through reading my work, visiting my home, or talking to me knows I read a lot. I’ve read works that highlight timeless definitions. I’m going to give a nod to the American philosopher who guided my reading on great ideas: Mortimer Adler. Doctor Adler was a big fan of Aristotle and a lot of what I’m about to cover comes straight from that ancient philosopher. In short, it really is timeless.
What is a team? A team is a collection of more than one person who associate for some purpose. From ancient times it was determined that there were only three reasons for people to associate with one another: utility, pleasure, and love. Let’s think of them as one – utility, two – pleasure, and three – love. That’s it. That’s all that drives human cooperation which most distinguishes our species.
Number one – utility – is what most do every day. People go to work with others to deliver value and get a paycheck. Employers hire and pay people to do a job, to deliver defined results. Utility. Adler mentioned that arranged marriages in medieval times, and some even today, fall into this category.
Number two – pleasure – includes anytime we associate for fun. This broad category includes bridge clubs, bars, camping trips, as well as infatuation and physical sex. That last is interesting in that many marriages start and end in number two.
Number three – love – means you associate due to others’ excellence. Whoa! What does that mean? It means you overlap in values and have mutual admiration and respect. That’s why U.S. Military often bond into great teams; they all swear to defend the same cause with their lives. Just volunteering creates mutual respect. To finish the marriage example, this is what’s required for long lasting relationships.
Let’s flesh this out. I lived a lot of my life before really understanding it. Number one – utility – is ‘Quid Pro Quo’ and is rooted in desire such as found in business or marriages of convenience. Number two – pleasure – is also ‘Quid Pro Quo’ and is also rooted in desire such as found in sex, infatuation, or convivial meetings. Number three – love – is NOT ‘Quid Pro Quo’ as it is not asking for a fair exchange. Again, number three is associating due to the other’s excellence. It is NOT rooted in desire; it is rooted in knowledge of the other(s).
In number one and two, you are using others. In number three you are knowing others. Good marriages or lifelong partners will have one and three, two and three, or all one, two, and three – utility, pleasure, and love – but they have to have love. They have to have mutual admiration and respect for the other’s excellence. Great teams are no different. That’s why we never forget them. Great teams in business, and great leadership for that matter, will always combine one and three – utility and love.
We all remember being on a great team because of the love! In great teams, curiosity, experimentation, and candor in communication reign. Arguments are passionate because great teams bound to excellence in all that they do means they care! But after the arguments there is never a need to ‘watch your back’ because a team takes care of their own. I have personally been fortunate to be on several great teams.
I’m writing a non-fiction book on business leadership expanding on these concepts. Very few write of values but instead, focus on perishable technique. Very few talk of real leadership. Leaders of great teams are seen giving credit to the team, often for achievements they led, and taking full accountability and blame for shortfalls, often due to screw ups they had nothing to do with. In short, great teams have great leaders and it’s all about the love.
Great teams can be seen putting art into their work, into their products. The simple definition of art is that it makes you feel something, it creates emotion. It is borne of love! Many are so enamored with the ability to automate technocrat tasks and the routine that they believe a smart enough person or, if you believe Ray Kurzweil, a sentient AI are all that is needed for greatness. Not so. It’s all about the great team and their dreams, aspirations, and values. It’s all about the love!