Leslie Ungar, The Inner Brilliance of Electric Impulse, Inc.

Have You Ever Seen a Statue Dedicated to a Committee?

Leslie’s Articles

If you walk through Savannah, Georgia you will find a park on almost every block. And in every park you will find a statue. But you will not find a statue dedicated to a committee. Anywhere.

Let’s look at why: why do we honor the individual over the group?

In society we honor and memorialize individual contribution over group contribution. Yet today in corporate America, there is an almost obsessive emphasis on teams. Teams rarely achieve breakthrough results. Instead, they sink to the level of the weakest performer and keep digging. The fault lies not with the team or its members, but with those who took a group of individuals, charged them with improbable goals, staffed them with uninspired leadership and expected them to function as a team.

Contrast an ineffective team to an organized, well-oiled, and disciplined team, one in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Such groups allow members to achieve results far beyond their individual abilities. The irony is that when the needs of the group take priority, the needs of the individual actually are enhanced.

When synergy takes place, teams outperform individuals. This synergy develops as team members work together fusing their personal energies and talents to deliver tangible performance results.

Synergy doesn’t just “take place”. Synergy has to be grown, nurtured, and exercised. One way to do that is through teambuilding events. High performance teams do not result from spontaneous combustion. They are grown, nurtured and exercised. It takes a lot of hard work and skill to blend the different personalities, abilities, and agendas into a cohesive unit willing to work for a common goal.

The Ohio State Football team has a “retreat” each year prior to the start of the season to begin to build a cohesive unit. Players have the opportunity to learn new challenges: together and for the first time. Last year the team was taken to the rural family farm of one of the team members. Imagine 250 pound athletes, city raised, with the common goal of milking a cow.

Have you ever thought about what makes up a team in your organization? Is it a group of people showing up at the same time, in the same location, wearing the same logo?

Or is it a collection of people, with different educations, different life experiences, different ages, who show up with the common desire to solve problems and move their company forward?

There are a number of benefits for teamwork, among them are:

  • Distributing the workload
  • Reinforcing individual capabilities
  • Creating participation and involvement
  • Making better decisions
  • Developing ownership to a concept or strategy
  • Generating a diversity of ideas

Connecting to the marketplace, however, is not one of the team benefits.

Which is why society and corporate America value teams differently. Society values the connection with an individual while corporate America values the results a well-oiled team can provide.

The Discovery Team was a team grown, nurtured, and exercised. Historic six-time Tour de France Champion Lance Armstrong was the face of the team. Can you name the other team members? You know that Michael Jordan won six NBA Championships. Can you name the members of any of his teams?

Beverly Sills understood the value of the individual as the identifiable face to a cause or project. When she managed the New York City Opera and served as Chairwoman of the Lincoln Center she knew her value: to call any executive in the country and get through the gatekeeper. Executives did not answer the phone for a committee; they answered the phone for “Bubbles”.

A well-run team tends to be more productive and creative than any single member. Perhaps that is why there are no statues dedicated to a committee. Behind every great team, like an NBA team, is a strong and visionary leader. Like a Phil Jackson. A leader whose job is not to control, but to teach, encourage, and organize when necessary.

Even at the Kentucky Horse Park, statues are erected to the Man O Wars and Citations of the horseracing world. It takes a village to get one horse in a race. Yet, there are no statues to the jockey, the grooms, the trainers, or the owners.

The same might be said about the statues erected to honor military victories. Could any military feat have been accomplished without a team? Could an individual have taken Iwo Jima? Of course not. It required a team and so do some of your challenges. Your teams need to be up to speed; they need to be grown, nurtured, and exercised. A teambuilding event is a way to exercise your teams.

Perhaps the statue commemorating the flag raising at Iwo Jima comes as close to honoring a team as any statue in history. You might be tempted to say, that’s a “committee” not an individual.

Actually, five Marines and a Navy corpsman are memorialized in that statue. If we look back at our definition of team, a collection of people, with different educations, different life experiences, different ages, who show up with the common desire to solve problems and move their company forward, we can say this statue is commemorated to a team.

Perhaps there is one statue dedicated to a committee, after-all.