by Jack Landry DTM
The D25 spring 2023 Toastmaster Leadership Institute (TLI) general session topic is “teamwork.” The session is based on concepts covered in the 2017 book by Michael G. Rogers entitled You are the Team. This informative work outlines the six virtues of a great team. In this article, I share some of the important ideas from the book.
The book begins with a parable:
A man was driving along an unfamiliar country road. It was dark and the man, unfortunately, drove his truck into a steep, deep ditch. The man was hopelessly stuck. He looked in the distance and saw a farmhouse. He walked to the house and an elderly farmer greeted him. The man explained his situation. The farmer shrugged and explained that he was retired and didn’t have a tractor, but that he might be able to help.
The farmer explained that he had an old mule named Andy who could possibly pull out his truck. The old farmer pointed to the adjoining field where a sway back and very ancient mule was grazing. The man was skeptical, but quickly realized it was his only option. Seeing the skepticism on the face of his guest, the farmer insisted, “Andy can do it!
Once the mule was harnessed, the trio walked back to the stuck truck. There, the farmer hooked Andy up to the truck, took the reins, and shouted, “Pull Henry! Pull Bill! Pull James! Pull John! Pull Andy!” Miraculously, Andy pulled out the truck with ease. The man thanked the farmer for his help and asked, “Why did you call out all of those other names?” The farmer grinned and explained that Andy was almost completely blind, but as long as he believed he’s part of a team, he could pull anything. (p. 12-13)
The author points out that as a team, we can accomplish a great deal more than we ever could individually. To be a great team, however, members must exhibit six essential virtues. The six virtues include:
- Be Selfless: Great team members put the needs of their teammates before their own. The teammate who gives credit to others before him/herself becomes esteemed in the eyes of the other members.
- Be Trustworthy: For a great team to function at a high level, each member has to rely on the commitments of everyone else. The essential idea is DWYSWD … Do What You Say You Will Do–always! DWYSWD is the practice that creates trust in a team, that is, knowing you can always rely on your teammates.
- Be Humble: Members who are humble focus on improving the overall team and are not solely focused on their personal goals. Humble teammates look at the performance of the team and ask, “what could I have done better?”
- Be Positive: Teams need immense energy to operate at peak performance. That energy comes from positivity. Also, a positive vibe in the group spreads … just like a negative vibe. Go for the positive.
- Be Respectful: Showing respect for teammates helps to create a safe environment that leads to increased trust. That trust translates into openness, which combats “group think.” Members will be more amenable to sharing their true thoughts and ideas on how to increase the effectiveness of the team.
- Be Great: Each team member should strive for greatness. Every individual has unique talents and experiences and can become a role model for other members, inspiring them to improve their performance and strive to be the best.
Over my 30+ years as a Toastmaster, this is the first time (in my recollection) that the organization has emphasized teamwork as a key to success. I’ve always regarded the success of the member, club, division, and district as the exclusive responsibility of the leadership. It seems so obvious now how short-sighted I’ve been. It’s refreshing and energizing to call on EVERYONE, at each level of the organization, to take responsibility for the accomplishments and success of the organization. Well done!