A few years ago, I read an interesting story about a CEO of a large hospital and rehabilitation network. As a CEO, he emphasized that the organization could be more successful if people would work together and “pull the wagon” rather than working at cross purposes. He wanted to discourage the aimless independent work and fruitless efforts that seemed to be impeding their progress.
To get things started, he gathered his team together and drew a large picture of a wagon. He then explained that he was rededicating himself to pulling the team wagon and asked each team member to reflect on where they would be: watching off to the side, riding in the wagon, pulling against the wagon, or pulling the wagon together in the right direction. The CEO passionately shared his belief that their success was truly dependent on the team working together and applying their own strengths to the challenge.
I have reflected on this story and sometimes wonder how each of us contributes to our own teams. Are we watching our team pull the wagon, are we complacently riding along in the wagon while others are doing the work, do we even pull against the wagon, or are we digging in and finding a way to be a valuable team member who contributes to the team effort? And I don’t mean someone who just goes along and support’s the team’s direction without question. Rather, flexible people who understand their role, creatively solve problems, communicate and collaborate with others, and find a way to contribute to the overall direction of the team.
With our natural competitive and independent natures, imagine what could be accomplished if everyone on the team channeled his or her energy, ambition, and passion into achieving immeasurable success for the team. Like the CEO in the story, I believe that it begins with some self-reflection about our own level of contribution. Then, find it in yourself to do what is best for the team, not just what seems to be best for you. Whether it is enhancing your value, being flexible, or collaborating more, begin today investing the time and energy needed to discover how you will help pull the team’s wagon.