Your team only gets one score

by 19 Jan 2017
David Lykken

In his book The Advantage, author Patrick Lencioni tells a short story about a kid from his son's soccer team. The team had just lost the game and Patrick was talking to some of the boys afterwards. While most of them were disheartened from the loss, one of the boys made the comment, “Well, I don't feel like I lost.” When Patrick asked the boy to explain, the boy said that he had done his job on the team and that it wasn't his fault the team had lost.

So, what do you think? Did the boy have a point? Assuming he had actually performed well, did he really lose—or was it only his team that had lost? As Patrick proceeded to point out to the boy, soccer is a team sport—and the team only gets one score. Either they all won together or they all lost together. So, in other words, it really didn't matter how well the boy thought he had played; if his efforts did not help his team achieve victory, the simple fact is that he would have to chalk it up as a loss.

This perspective isn't only held by little boys on soccer teams; it's also held far too often by adults in the professional world. Even in leadership, we see people blaming other leaders or (even worse) their people for the failures of the organization. The truth is that, like a team sport, all the members of the organization succeed together—and they all fail together. Business is a team sport.

So, how do you react when your organization has a setback? Do you reassure yourself by claiming that it wasn't your fault, or do you take responsibility? The more people on the team we have taking responsibility for the outcome, the better the shot we'll have the next time around.