The Importance of Being A Team Player

"If an egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. If an egg is broken by an inside force, life begins. Great things happen from the inside."

- Unknown

I recently ran across this version of Aesop’s fable “The Four Oxen and the Lion” on a blog post by writer/columnist Charlie Scott and felt it speaks to a core value most companies have, or want to have. Being a “TEAM PLAYER”. I hope you find some small bit of inspiration from it.

4oxen-lionIn the days before civilization, out on the prairie there lived four oxen:  Frank, Harry, Skip and Greg. These oxen had learned over time that they were safer as a group. Whenever anything that looked dangerous approached, twitches from any one of the oxens’ ears was the signal for all of them to band together and take defensive positions. Their defense was elementary but effective. The four oxen would back their tails together with each ox facing outward. (This may have been the first recorded “I’ve got your back” teamwork.) This configuration allowed the oxen to see in all directions.

Over the years they had often met a roaming individual ox enjoying the many succulent prairie grasses, but after a short while every lone ox disappeared. The four oxen guessed that these oxen may have moved on to “greener pastures.” This was perplexing to them given that there was more food available than could be consumed by a thousand oxen.

Naturally, these four oxen were constantly on the lookout for the perils of the prairie, particularly lions. A frequent threat was one local lion (let’s call him Marty) that had been hanging around for many years. On one occasion Marty had stalked these four oxen only to learn that as a group they were a formidable force. On that occasion, Greg sighted Marty and twitched his ear. The four immediately backed into their defensive position and were ready with tooth and hoof wherever Marty approached. This teamwork neutralized Marty’s element of surprise and foiled his attack. Marty never stalked them again. There was easier prey available.

One year, rain was rare. The once lush prairie had bare spots and food was harder to find. The oxen had to work harder to fill their bellies, and the hot dry weather made them uncomfortable and cranky. One fateful day, the oxen disagreed on where to graze. Harry wanted to head for the hills, Frank was in the mood for the river, Skip had heard a rumor of some good tasting wildflowers near the rocks, and Greg thought the grazing was just fine where they were. Harry remarked that they always went to the river – always! Frank pointed out that water was always a good thing – always! Skip called Greg lazy for wanting to stay put, and Greg responded with a totally uncalled for remark about Skip’s mother. Angry grunts were exchanged, driving a wedge among the four oxen. They decided to split up and pursue their individual grazing goals.

While the oxen appreciated their independence at first, it did seem as though the grazing choices weren’t as rich and varied as when they all considered where to go. Harry got thirsty, Skip found himself getting tired of flowers, and Greg decided that maybe it really was time to graze somewhere else. But before they could decide whether to find their old buddies (oxen don’t do anything quickly), it was too late. Marty discovered that the herd had disbanded. Marty had no trouble stalking each lone ox and doing what lions do (how’s that for saying it nicely).

So the moral of the fable is… Being a successful company is also a team activity requiring coordinated efforts from Sales/Marketing, Service/Product Delivery, Finance, and Administration. When all four work together as a team, putting aside personal agendas and focusing on the vision (ours is creating Raving Fans), they accomplish more than just protecting themselves against potential threats such as an upset customer, a new competitor, or a tough market. The team can also confer on resolution strategies using the “two (or four) heads are better than one” philosophy, to enhance solutions and all be on the same page. Most importantly, a “team effort” sends a loud and clear message to clients that your team is well informed, cares about the customer, and is professional and supportive of one another. That kind of teamwork is as obvious to a customer as it was to Marty the lion.

Ask yourself this; Do we have what it takes to put aside our personal agendas to keep from attracting the Marty’s of the world (our detractors) so they look for easier prey somewhere else? Are we united as a team and each doing our part? Tough questions, but as I think on it, they are only tough if we know deep inside we can’t honestly answer a resounding “YES”.

You may also be interested in:
The Significance of Alignment
The Iceberg Syndrome
The Cod and the Catfish
What’s Your Magic Eraser?
What do we do?

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