In the 2004 Olympics, the U.S. men’s basketball team lost its opening game to Puerto Rico. Then there was a loss to Lithuania. Then another loss to Argentina. What had been billed as the “Dream Team” left the Olympics with a 5-3 record and the bronze medal. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. The 2004 men’s basketball team had talent in spades: Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade etc. They all had the same jersey, same country – but they weren’t playing as a team. Sure, they came from accomplished NBA franchises that had various levels of team work. What they had failed to do was bring those experiences to a new group that had to perform on basketball’s biggest stage.
Yet, in its opening game for the 2008 Olympics against China, the U.S. performed differently and came up with winning results. During the raucous event, announcer Mike Breen took a moment to recount a story involving his fellow announcer, Doug Collins. It was a talk that Collins gave to the Men’s Team during a stop over in Vegas while on their way over to Beijing:
"There are a lot of winners in life, but it’s rare to be a champion. Don’t miss this opportunity. Remember it’s the name on the front of your jersey, not the back that matters".
Big words and a simple idea that can get lost in the cluttered agendas, limited resources and short deadlines. It can confuse what is more important: the team of "I" or the team of us. How can we make sure to keep the “us” team as our focus? Sure we can go “Dr. Phil” about keeping the ego in check and all. I’ll leave that for the head doctors. Here are some other practical ideas:
* Do your homework on the team: Gain perspective by chatting with your company’s “old-timers”, develop a robust web-based reader of news and blogs about your organization (such as Google Reader).
* Rep your team’s best: Company culture isn’t platitudes; it’s how your team gets things done. If you can articulate what it is, you’ll be better in screening in the talent that fits and screening out the talent that would ruin your team’s top performance.
* Know the game plan: Listen to the earnings call, attend company meetings with questions in hand, know a 10K from 10Q (do learn it and the other related filings from your finance department) and tie your company’s business goals to what you do and your company’s financial performance to how you do it.
* Own your role for the betterment of the team. None of what you do is “just” a drill, or a repeat game. Always do project wraps (what did I learn) and take on projects to make the HR/recruiting offering for your team better (program, process and resources).
* Have more to add? Let’s hear it!
Doing these activities will naturally have you thinking about your team. The funny thing is that by focusing on the team (the name on the front of the jersey), your own value will automatically increase (the name on the back of the jersey).
So, is your jersey on backwards?
Photo by kk+
William Uranga is the Director of Talent Acquisition at TiVo, where his team is responsible for all staffing strategies and recruiting programs for the organization. He also moonlights as an instructor, teaching in the Certificate Program in Human Resource Management of the University of California Extension in Silicon Valley, and helped co-found and lead the Bay Area-based Recruiting Leadership Forum, a network for those who are leading recruiting in a corporate function and are just trying to get better at it. Check out his blog at Talent Alchemy and don’t say “DVR” when you call him…