By: Suzanne BatesEven if you don't play golf and find it stupid to chase a little white ball around a perfectly manicured lawn, you are well aware that the game is played in groups but is unquestionably an individual sport. Except, once a year since the 1920's, when annually, the top American and European players have gathered their best to compete on alternating continents for the coveted Ryder Cup. There have been memorable competitions that provided high drama, like in 1969 when Jack Nicklaus shot and missed an eagle putt that hurtled 5 feet past the hole. Tony Jacklin left his two feet short; Nicklaus made his long birdie putt; and then in a gesture of sportsmanship unparalleled in any other sport, picked up Jacklin's marker, conceding the shot, allowing the Europeans to tie.
In business, we certainly relish this level of competition and dare I say - drama. What's better than beating competitors with a team that is fired up and on its game? And to win ethically, playing by the rules, is even better. However, it's sad to say, there's a little more difference between the team-like workmanship of a Ryder Cup and the real-life team requirements in business. Professional golfers can walk out of the clubhouse, take their caddies to dinner, have a steak and a scotch, then hop a plane home, retiring their team uniforms and resuming their pursuit of individual best rankings. In business we have to keep the team uniform on. We're in it for the long haul. This means sustaining the effort as we work toward a shared vision that requires us to sacrifice for the good of the enterprise.
One of the interesting surprises in our consultation with some of the top leadership teams in the world has been the discovery of the fresh relevance of our research on executive presence to helping teams soar. We start with the fact that like it or not, when you walk into the door for an SLT meeting you're wearing two hats; you represent your function or business unit, and you also have to give a damn about the enterprise. Right from the start it's never going to work if you only advocate for your "homies." Self-interest abounds but won't make a leadership team high performing. Things fall apart if people don't give a little, and also learn to trust one another's best intentions. Great leadership teams care passionately about their folks and their projects, but they realize what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I love Rory and Jordan and will always adore Phil, but what they have to do is simpler - all they need to do is summon up a modicum of respect while observing the guy they are paired with and secretly hope they miss the putt.
In my experience, working with teams pre and post ExPI assessment, I'm quite impressed. They're smart and they know if the other guy misses, they're in trouble, too. They know deep down they need to show up caring about each other and giving it their group level best. They also have to care about their personal interactions, taking the high road and doing what is right. Qualities like Humility, Authenticity, Restraint and Integrity matter to building trust. Inclusivenessand Resonance are must-haves in promoting healthy dialogue.
I just finished a session with a team that felt the shift when they noticed where their gaps were on these aspects of executive presence. It got them talking about how if they didn't work together and show up differently, they would fail the charter and mission and waste the millions the company has invested in them. At the end of our two days together, they went around the room spontaneously sharing how much their relationships were already changing. They talked about how excited they were to move forward with a ten year vision for their scientific field. I can't disclose a thing but believe me when I tell you that if they are successful they'll probably cure a disease. I'm not kidding. That's how important this stuff is.
I may never make an eagle putt, but it doesn't matter, because it couldn't match moments like that.