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“The Team Did Great!”

Some advice from my father (and Adam Grant).

Getty/Priscila Zambotto
Getty/Priscila Zambotto

I was a halfway decent basketball player when I was in high school. Don’t get me wrong: I was never going to be drafted by the NBA. But I made some key shots and my share of buzzer-beaters. And when I came off the court, my father was always there with praise.

Not praise for me. Praise for the team: “The team did great today!”

Those courtside conversations taught me that success never depends on just one person; it’s always a team effort.

I’ve been thinking about my father as I read Adam Grant’s Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Grant divides the world into Givers, Takers, and Matchers. He argues that Givers are the most successful leaders because they’re driven to bring out the best in people. They always try to improve themselves—not for personal gain necessarily, but to add more skills to the team and to grow the pie for everyone to be successful.

However, while “Givers” may make the most effective leaders, they can be taken advantage of and risk getting lost in giving to others. So lost that they can forget what they bring to the table and don’t give themselves what they need.

So how can “Givers” continue to be generous with their time, knowledge, and resources, while still maintaining their focus on the team’s success and their own well-being? If I’ve learned anything from Adam Grant (and my father) it’s that the most important skill is perspective. Perspective about who we are and how we fit in—from the small picture, in which our tasks may loom big, to the big picture in which we are undoubtedly a very small part.

We live in such a competitive environment. Every new client pitch can feel like a buzzer-beater; every project deadline like the difference between Going Big and Going Home. You can’t work (or play!) like that. It’s not only too much pressure to put on any individual, it’s also completely unnecessary. Because none of us plays alone; whatever our career requires of us, we’re all part of a team.

But just as the airlines tell you to put the oxygen mask over your face before helping the others you’re with, we have to recognize that if our well-being slips, we can’t be as effective for our people. So give—absolutely. Be confident in your abilities, but don’t forget about the ultimate goal and the success of the team. The pie can be big enough for everyone to be successful – but be sure to give yourself what you need, whether it’s a week of R&R or a half hour of yoga. Or just the five minutes it takes to jot down three things you’re grateful for.

It’s a great way to maintain your perspective, for yourself and for your team.

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