I looked around the locker room at the major college basketball team. They’d just come off the court after another grueling practice. Their effort had been great, their coach had assured me. It was a good group on the court, in the weight room, in the classroom. Good kids, doing the right things, even when no one was looking.
“How many of you want to win the conference championship?” Every hand went up. Easy question.
“How many of you have dreamt of making the game-winner at the buzzer?” Nods all around, some sheepish grins. “Sure. We all have,” I assured them. Every placekicking session I had in high school or college ended that way… “Three, two, one, the kick is on its way…”
Of course, if it was wide, I’d suddenly realize that the phantom opponent had been offsides – rekick!
“What if you win but you aren’t the one to make the final shot?” I asked. They were okay with that. Not preferred, but okay.
“What if the best chance to win that conference championship means that…you’re not in the game? Is it still worth it to you?”
It’s hard. We want to win. We want our company to have success. Hit our goals, both as a team and individuals.
This idea of selflessness in an organization can be challenging. We think we want it, and we actually probably do. But as Tony Dungy and I explored in “The Soul of a Team,” being willing to watch others get the accolades can be really challenging. It’s just not how most of us are wired.
Ask yourself that question ahead of time. Am I willing…? It can be hard. Wrestle with the thought ahead of time, and give yourself grace if and when that moment and feeling arrives.
But if you can’t answer that question in the affirmative, find another company, team, department. You’ll be better off. So will they.