There is no magic pill for building better teamwork, but one of the most important keys is helping your team realize that they will likely often see only what thy look for in those they have the responsibility to inspire and develop.
A team leaders attention should therefore be modified, for what leaders train their eyes to focus on has a tremendous impact on the results their team will be able to enjoy.
You may not have seen it, but there is an entertaining selective attentiontest video available on YouTube that does a terrific job of illustrating this point.
The video asks you to count the number of passes made between one group of individuals, but in the midst of that activity your intent on counting will likely result in missing something surprising.
Nearly half of the people who “take” this test (and the video has been viewed well over five million times) are reportedly blind to the surprising appearance of something unexpected.
And that is precisely what I am here to convince you to see.
As people, we are all, by nature, selfish and focused on our own needs and desires. But in focusing on ourselves, it is likely that we miss many opportunities to enrich the lives of others because we are too consumed with our own situations or activities.
The truth is that happiness is a choice – no matter what your situation is, you can choose to be happy. Attitude is something that lies completely under our control. But there are two ways to help engender the team happiness we want to feel, and share, in the midst of a bad day or rough patch of life – and those are:
1. To review what you are thankful for, and
2. To assist and serve others.
You see, selfishness is never as rewarding as you expect it to be. To inspire beter teamwork and be a more effective and happier team leader, you should not look for a blessing – you should look to BE a blessing to someone else…
Perhaps one of the best examples of this is found in Peter Breughel’s 16th century painting, The Fall of Icarus.
For those of you not familiar with the story, Icarus was a young man from Greek myths who, along with his father Daedalus who was an inventor, escaped from a tower by flying out the window, using wings his father had fashioned from wax and feathers.
Before they left, Icarus’ father warned him not to fly too high, or the sun would melt the wings and send him plummeting to earth. As you might expect, that is exactly what happened, and Icarus dies in the story of careless pride.
But Breughel’s painting is interesting, because the image is seemingly of a farmer tilling his fields and going about his daily business. His head is down, and his attention is on the work that he has to accomplish for that day. At first glance, that farmer and his work are all an observer may notice – and he may not realize why the painting carries the title it does.
Meanwhile, far down in the far right corner of the painting, a closer inspection reveals the image of two legs kicking out of the ocean near the shore. The tiny splash you see around the legs was from the struggling and sinking body of Icarus, and once you find that part of the painting it becomes a far more interesting piece of art.
What I think Breughel is trying to communicate is that we all often get so caught up in our own daily activities that we neglect to take note of the people and events around us.
In his painting, the farmer is focused on his field, and while his attention is on the ground he misses what might likely have been the single most amazing and extraordinary event that he could have witnessed in his lifetime.
And I wonder every time I see or talk about this painting – how many people are drowning around me that I have failed to notice because I insist on focusing on my needs instead of keeping my eyes open to opprtunity to serve others?
You see, it isn’t the common man who would have seen Icarus. Bob Knight said years ago that “every player looks, but very few really see.” Coach Knight knew that only trained eyes can see certain opportunities.
And while most of us have eyes that can see, we usually only see what we are looking for.
What have you been looking for today? Have you been training your eyes to look down and see only the ground while you keep plowing your own field? If you want to enjoy better teamwork, more happiness, and fulfillment, you will want to start focusing more on how you can serve others!
If you are part of a team that depends upon one another to succeed or perform at a high level, perhaps part of the recent difficulties you are experiencing are due to teammates who are neglecting each other’s needs or struggles – or who are looking to find fault instead of finding things to appreciate and compliment.
Starting tomorrow, whether it is at your home or with your team at work, I encourage you to re-train your eyes to look for opportunities to serve and assist others. Our greatest moments wait hidden in the strangers that surround us…
Who is YOUR Icarus? Who have your selfish eyes been blind to?
Who is struggling and drowning in the margins of your life that your attention could save?
What are your teammates doing well?
If you would like to invest in a full or half-day of preseason team building that can assist you in creating a culture of cohesiveness, It would be my pleasure to assist you in creating an event that will open the eyes of your team and inspire them to enjoy a happier and more productive workplace by looking for an opportunity to assist and serve others on your team.
If you liked this article, you will want to request free access to Sean’s Teamwork Toolbox – over 50 useful handouts and activities for smart team leaders!