What I Learned About Teams from Being a Triplet
I entered the world as part of a team. I was the first-born in a set of triplets — rounding out the trio are two brothers, James and John. When we arrived there already were three other siblings: my older brother was 18 years old, my sister was 15 and my other brother was 13 when mother at 41 years old had triplets. The fact that the “triplets” were a major surprise is magnified by the fact that our birthday is the 4th of July, and there were plenty of jokes at my mother’s expense about fireworks, explosions and freedom on the 4th.
As children, my brothers and I were dressed in similar outfits (clearly identifying us as part of the same clan), and we attended the same school and sat in the same classroom— in alphabetical order! I remember that we had 52 kids in our class – and we, along with five sets of twins, were all in the same class. Given that situation, being a “multiple” was not unusual to me, in fact, it felt more like the norm. And to this day, my two BFFs are twin sisters from my grammar school days.
When I became an adult and entered the business world, I realized the values that our parents taught us as a family are the same values that work for any team — whether you’re a team member or a team leader.
All for One and One for All
Growing up we thought we were the Three Musketeers. We watched the three heroes on a black and white TV in the living room and while the swashbuckling sword-waving action scenes were fun, we always liked the fact that they stuck together through thick and thin. The musketeers showed extreme loyalty and respect for each other.
All for one and one for all is a great motto for teamwork and the ability to get things done. It means that the group as a whole will help every single member, and every single member will help out the group, no matter what adversity occurs. It means you are all on the same team with the same goals.
Everyone has a Gift
Each of us is born with our own unique gifts and talents. We are not cookie cutter duplicates. The ability to play a musical instrument, solve complex mathematical problems, or become an athlete, a writer, an entertainer or an entrepreneur ––is already hard-wired into us.
My brother John is a photographer, my brother James is a cultural anthropologist, and I’m a business executive. Over the years I’ve created marketing materials and messaging for my different companies and I’ve asked for their opinion. I can always count on an honest response and suggestions that ultimately improve the outcome. They see things through a different lens, and those different views contribute to a stronger, better output.
Strong teams recognize and appreciate each person’s gift, and the best teams represent diversity of thought, skills, and interests. Thank goodness for the visionaries, the organizers, the planners, the analytical, the creative, the thinkers, the doers, the helpers, the introverts and the extraverts.
In business, bringing in others with different “gifts” to help solve problems, create new products, or envision a new way of doing things is always better than going it alone.
If You Need Help, Ask for It
If you fell into a deep hole and couldn’t get up, you’d yell for help. If you didn’t know how to play tennis, you’d ask a skilled player or a coach to teach you. If you’re running a company and can’t seem to figure out why sales are declining, you’d get an outside set of eyes or an expert who can help you.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. It means you are self-aware and able to recognize your own or your team’s limitations. Paradoxically, it takes a confident person to acknowledge, “I’m good at this, but no so strong in this area.” Accomplished and successful leaders often talk of a defining moment in their careers when they realized they needed help and weren’t afraid to ask for it.
If it’s Your Turn to be the Leader, Then Lead
When my brothers and I were young, we took turns picking the board games we would play (my fav was Candy Land), or the TV show we would watch (I loved Bonanza), or the sandwiches we had for lunch (it was either bologna, egg salad, or peanut butter and jelly on white bread). When it was your turn to “pick” the game, the show, or the lunch, you already had a point of view regarding your choice. The others could attempt to influence you, but when it was your turn to be the leader, you had to make the decision.
If you are in a leadership position it is expected that you’ll lead: make decisions, develop a plan, allocate resources, assign tasks, establish standards, rally the team, and monitor work so deadlines are met and goals achieved.
Trust is Everything
One time when we were kids my mother asked us to wash the car in the driveway. A neighborhood boy came by and started to help, grabbing a sponge and bucket of soapy water. He thought it would be funny to squirt the hose at me and get me soaking wet. Just as he started, my brothers got a second hose and dosed him with water. He was shocked that the three of us ganged up on him!
“Trust is knowing someone has your back, will jump to your defense, and stand by you no matter what. The strongest and best teams are built on trusting relationships.”