Watching six-year-olds play soccer (or football for our friends outside the USA) is more than just entertaining – it’s informative. They’re enthusiasm for the game, and contributing to success, reveals itself in an interesting (and humorous) way: They all group and crowd around the ball, kicking endlessly and randomly, hoping that someone will – by chance – make a connection and send the ball towards the goal.
They’re committed to winning.
A senior leader at a well-known engineering company shared the above soccer example as a metaphor. “The same thing – bunching around the ball – can happen in the workplace,” he said. “But you can’t have it. We’re only one-person deep at each position. Everybody has to play their role and stay in their space if we’re going to be effective.”
What’s necessary to ensure a person’s commitment to success doesn’t hurt results – but advances the ball? (You won’t see the soccer teams in the Olympics this summer bunching around the ball.)
“Being a committed employee doesn’t mean you are willing to work 80 hours a week,” the leader added. “It means you are willing and able to continuously improve how you fulfill your role, your effectiveness and contributing to team success.”
If we aren’t aligned on what commitment means, it means we can work hard, but actually go slow. And slow is poison.
Your team is working hard. What does commitment mean? How this value is defined may determine how quickly the ball goes in the goal.
The metaphor resonated with me. As a leader of several teams with very different skills sets, but with strong dependencies between them for success, this is always a struggle to keep in check as everyone wants to be part of solving the “problem” of the day.
At a personal level I continually get pulled into broader issues for “input/advice/help”. I am constantly checking these requests against my ability maintain the required focus on the parts of the business I am responsible for. In the spririt of the metaphor, if my parts of the business are not operating at their best, I am creating issues for those downstream of my organizations that limit their ability to succeed.
As is learned playing hockey for many years…you own your lane. You can take opportunities to go outside of your lane, but you still own your lane!
This is so true: “…everyone wants to be a part of solving the problem of the day.” Leaders who understand this can tap into an amazing motivation – and, to your point, when doing this it must be lead well. As you say, helping the “whole” only works when we remain responsible for what is originally ours. Thanks Ray!