Essential Skills for Leaders: Team First

New York Yankee Mariano Rivera recently experienced a devastating potentially career ending injury doing something he loves to do before games- shag fly balls in the outfield. Mariano is the all time save leader and his legacy remains intact and a Cooperstown induction is a fait- compli so many expected him to simply decide to hang up his fast ball cutter glove and call it quits. But, Mariano’s reaction to the freak accident is the epitome of a team player. His decision to have the surgery and come back illustrated by his words, “Things happen for a reason. My only concern, my only worry was letting my team down. This is a new chapter again.” And, so begins the hard work for Mariano with surgery and physical therapy and the heavy burden for the Yankee team as they struggle to go on without him.

When problems or even disasters arise on teams, all leaders have to dig down and access the skills needed to lead effectively in a crisis. But the best leaders think team first.

What is the first inclination of members of your team in times of turbulence? Do they understand the importance of sticking together? Our work with over 100 teams suggests that teams in trouble tend to do the following in a crisis:

  • Blame each other- it’s every man/woman for him/herself. This creates an environment of defensiveness and silos. Finger pointing and back stabbing are seen as part of survival.
  • Refuse to take accountability for their own actions. These teams lack the ability to gain understanding from where the team and it’s leaders went right and where they went wrong.
  • Ignore the problem and hope it will get better.
  • Fail to establish the new burning imperative that will allow the team to rally around a new purpose.

What happens to your team in a crisis?