I recently competed in my first tug of war competition. I was in the Adirondacks, for a bachelorette weekend, which also happened to be the Tupper Lake Woodsmen’s Days. We were outsiders and showed up completely unprepared (most of us were wearing sandals), but with all the gusto in the world, we registered to compete in the tug of war competition.
Immediately upon signing up, a woman from a competing team came up to us, giving us all the tips we could handle, strategy, what order to line up in and how our own extra team members could support us best. We’d be competing against the reigning champion for the past 10 years, Team Rope Burn, and she wanted to help us have the best chance possible to succeed. It was time, we were pumped up and also fully ready to fall face first in the dirt.
What happened next was incredible, not only did we have our “screamers” (those teammates whose job is to coach from the side), but this much more experienced team rallied around us as well. The energy of our own team putting in our all, plus the unexpected full support of our competition, cheering, coaching and well, screaming, was incredible. We didn’t win, but we did get third place and made some new friends!
So what does this have to do with culture? I’ve observed in many organizations, cultures where teams and departments not only work in silos, but see each other as competition and sometimes as go as far as describing them as the enemy, again, this is within the same company!
Is there a team or department within your organization that you see as competition? Or simply a department that does nothing for you? What if you took the same approach as this competitive team took with us? What can you do to cheer them on? Is there information that you have, that they could really use, but perhaps it’s being withheld because of a spoken or unspoken rivalry? What skills or insight does your team have that they could use? What would happen if you took the first steps to bridge that gap and really began to support one another?
Another twist, is to think about the newbie. The one who doesn’t have a clue as to what they’re supposed to be doing and doesn’t seem to deserve to be there. How did they even GET this job? Instead of watching them flounder or butting heads with them because they have a different approach, apply the same principles. Give them all the support wisdom you’ve got, right from the beginning. Don’t waste a minute, you have something truly valuable to give.
If you have trouble getting past the rivalry or perception that you’ve become so accustomed to, ask yourself, “What is the overarching goal that we’re both trying to work toward and how can we help each other out?” This takes the focus off of the friction between you and that person or team and puts it on something greater, that you can both get excited about.
In improv, we call this concept simply, “Make each other look good.” Imagine what you could accomplish if everyone in your organization followed this approach?
Let’s get a little dirty and make each other look good.