Exception to the Rule: When Me Comes Before We

by Sandy Nelson on December 3, 2012

In a post last week, What’s In It For Me?, I made the comment that “A core differentiator between teams that consistently perform at peak and those that do not is that ‘Me’ comes before ‘We’ at the lower tier of performance.”

Logically, then, one would deduce that We supersedes Me at the upper tiers. Of course, it does.

Members of high performance teams and cultures place the interests and priorities of their team and organization first. But, like for all rules, there are exceptions. Two come immediately to mind:

  • Bring the best self I can to the playing field
  • Look at home first

Best Self

In the absence of people, there are no organizations. If my colleagues and I choose not to come to work, there would be no Aperio International. The same is true for all ventures. No people, no business.

People are the core value of any organization. Yet, thriving in the creative economy of the early twenty-first century requires much more than just filling seats with bodies. The quality, character, baseline and role specific expertise, qualifications and competitive agility of the people we choose to lead, manage and operate our teams and organizations matter. So does the differential capacity of leadership to enroll, develop and evoke the best from top talent.

Quality talent fully leveraged is the base line differentiator among competitors. Attracting, inspiring, focusing and evoking full creative contribution from top talent is not, in itself, enough. To fully benefit from talent, the first priority of each member of the team must be to bring the best self possible to the playing field every day.

Let’s face it—if one or more of my physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual states of being are compromised, so will be my ability to contribute at or near my full potential.

To be sure, life happens. Babies get sick in the night, complications, inconveniences, illnesses and emotional upheavals arise. To live is to encounter complexity and challenge.

Like elite athletes, however, top tier team members understand that while navigating the minefield of life entails confronting and engaging with complexity and challenge, a way must be found to optimize the best self possible on the playing field on any given day if there is any hope of contributing at peak.

There are a four essential practices that collectively form the foundations upon which my best self is built:

Sleep

Probably most important of all, sleep is essential to health, creativity, energy, focus and listening. Extensive research builds a strong case for a minimum of seven to eight hours a night. Those who sleep less are more inclined to disease, weight gain, compromised energy, focus, listening and mood—not to mention measurably increased rates of mortality.

Exercise

To consistently move our bodies and engage in some form of resistance exercise and stretching opens the door not only to elevated fitness and physiological health, but increased energy, stamina, improved sleep, overall sense of well being and a radically increased rate of creative insights and breakthroughs. All creative breakthroughs come from the body. Time devoted to exercise is not time away from work. It is essential creative time that generates tremendous benefit that extends well beyond the physical and mental.

Time for Quietness and Reflection

Stillness and detachment provide opportunities to connect with something higher, while getting in touch with what really matters. I once heard someone distinguish between prayer and meditation—prayer is talking, while meditation is listening to God. I put this forward not in any religious sense, but rather to illustrate the critical value of quiet listening. Through stillness and quiet, we come into close contact with the universal, gain clarity around direction and priorities, diminish stress and find healing in many forms.

Social Engagement and Networks

Human beings are social animals. Quality social engagement is largely recognized as an indispensable component of health and well being. Relationships far exceed levels of competency in terms of positive impact on career and opportunity. People who have active, nurturing social engagement with extended networks of constructive relationships are, on the whole, healthier, happier, more successful and live longer. Just the types of people we want on our teams.

Look at Home First

Change and accountability are high impact personal choices. Owning my contribution and ability to have impact is the first and most important step in building a sustainable high performance culture.

Nevertheless, in our work, we often witness people engaged in moving from a legacy to a high performance culture who are much more focused on how everyone else is doing in the process than on themselves. As one of my favorite high school football coaches used to say many times during practice and games, “Check at home first”.

There is no doubt that seeing others fail to model high performance practices is frustrating in the process of change. Yet, change begins with me. If I check at home first, make sure that I am owning and focusing my contribution, momentum and progress will accrue.

As my mother loved to say, “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones”. Once I am consistently doing every possible thing that I possibly can to fulfill my promises, there will be time for concern about others.

In summary, while “Me” most definitely comes before “We” at the lower tier of performance”, bringing the best self I possibly can to the playing field and checking at home first are two important exceptions to the rule.

This is a good day to own your state of being and contribution to success. Would you have it any other way?

 

Sandy Nelson

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