Your Talent Won’t Be Enough

Enough for what?

There are very few truly one-man (or one-woman) shops.  Show me a successful sole proprietor, and I’ll show you someone who leads, and relies upon, a team of talented individuals…whether they realize it or not.

How can this be?  Doesn’t the definition of sole proprietor mean that one person is the sole talent?  Well, sort of, but not quite.

Imagine that you’re an awesome flower arranger.  Your bouquets are exquisite.  Their beauty is unmatched.  You decide to take a risk and open your own flower shop.  Your confidence is high.  After all, your flower arrangements are incredible.  Customers will come from miles around to buy your arrangements.

A few weeks into the process of opening your new shop, you discover that flower shops don’t run on flower arrangements alone.  There are building leases to negotiate, furniture and fixtures to procure, point-of-sale systems to deploy, website interfaces to create (if you’d like to receive orders from some of the national flower delivery services), suppliers to line up, insurance coverage to purchase, merchant account services (if you plan to take credit cards), and payroll systems (for the one or two part-time employees you’ll be hiring, just for starters).

You’ll need to connect your talent with the talents of a wide array of other people, just to open your shop.

It’s the same thing in a larger company.  Your ability to build trusting relationships across your company, and across your industry, will have more to do with your long-term success than individual talent.  Creating a reservoir of trust with talented people, and relying on them, just as you’d rely on yourself, is critical to your success…and theirs.

Your talent, alone, won’t be enough.  Enough for what?  Enough to accomplish whatever your definition of success is.

Moving Boulders

The boulder was huge. By all estimates, it weighed at least a ton.

The boulder was huge.  By all estimates, it weighed at least a ton.  It had rolled down the mountain and was blocking the main road into town.  Various city departments sent their top managers out to assess the situation.  All came back with the same assessment:  the boulder was huge, and there was no way their department could move it off the road.   

The road department recommended that they build a new road to go around the boulder.  Given the urgency of the situation, that was seen as the best option.  They worked around the clock to build the new road.  Within four weeks, they had successfully rerouted the road around the boulder.  The road department was hailed for their work and sacrifice in helping the city avert the crisis brought about by the boulder.     

Success?  Not really.

Sure, the city attacked the problem with its best minds.  They came up with a novel approach to solving the problem.  The road department employees put in a heroic effort to re-open the vital artery into the city.

But, something was missing (other than jackhammers and tractors).  In this case, the most vital ingredients to problem solving were missing from the story.  Those ingredients are trust and teamwork.

Each manager sought a solution from within the artificial boundaries of their own department, their own experience.  Their assessments were correct, from their limited perspectives.  None had the resources to move the boulder.  Each fell victim to, and tacitly supported, a culture that ignores (or avoids) cross-departmental teamwork.

Imagine what would have happened if even two of the departments had trusted each other.  Imagine if they found a way to pool their resources and ideas.  The power of teamwork lies not in having more hands to do the work, but in broadening the array of available solutions.

How does your organization deal with boulders blocking the road?  What are you doing to change it?

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