Monday, June 19, 2006

The Golden Rule of Business

Most of the work that I do is project-related. A project is identified, a team is assembled, and a team leader is chosen. Some projects last only a few days; some go on for months. They all overlap so I’m usually working on several projects at a time in various stages of completion.

One project team I was involved with had one very uncooperative team member. Although he claimed to be working on the project’s behalf, it was very obvious to me and to the other team members that he was much more interested in drawing attention to himself. I was the one on the team that had to work the closest with him — which meant that I had to put up with most of his foolishness and cover for many of his mistakes.

The project leader knew of my problems and was sympathetic to them. But in the best interests of getting the work done, we all agreed to do the best we could with what we had to work with — even if that meant putting up with the rudeness and incompetence of the most uncooperative team member I have ever worked with.

Toward the end of the project, the team leader caught me in a particularly “down” mood, pulled me aside, and said “Joe, it’s nice to have somebody like you on my team.”

What a breath of fresh air! With one statement, I learned what the project manager was actually looking for. And received a “stroke” to make me feel better.

As the project progressed, I watched the other team members’ behavior, compared it to my own, and put myself in the position of the project lead. I soon realized that the best behavior would be one that I would want if I were the leader of the team.

Obviously, “Mr. Uncooperative” didn’t understand that concept. I can’t believe that he would actually want himself on his team. Certainly, he wouldn’t want a whole team of people like himself. Nothing would ever get done because everybody would be fighting for attention for themselves.

When you were young, you probably learned something about the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” With this project, I realized that the rule works in business as well as it does in personal relationships.

I learned that the best way to be a team member is to be the type of member that you would want to have on a team. I now measure my behavior on a team with the question, “Is that the type of behavior that I would want a member of my team to exhibit?” All I have to do is remove myself from the process, turn around and look at myself, and observe what I am doing.

If the Golden Rule of life is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, the ancillary Golden Rule of Business should be “Be the type of team member that you would like to have on your team.”

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