Thursday, July 4, 2013

Takeaways From The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork

17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork - John C. Maxwell

I just finished reading John C. Maxwell's book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. I enjoyed it. While I didn't immediately connect to every law, there were definitely points that I needed to see.

The purpose of this entry is to capture those points I connected with most and identify immediate actions that I can take to develop my skills and enhance the overall success of the team.

Thumbing back through the book, I realize how much information it possess. Today, I'd like to focus on five main laws: Law of the Niche, Law of the Price Tag, Law of the Scoreboard, Law of the Bench, and the Law of Communication.

Law of the Niche

As an individual, I have always relied on my own effort. Growing up, I lived by the common saying, "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." I knew that if I wanted something done, it was much easier just to do it myself than to ask anyone else. As a result, I became a jack of all trades, but a master of none. It also crippled my ability to be a great team player.

As a leader, adopting a do-it-yourself attitude meant that I became the only person driving action within the organization. Sure, this may be great for the short-term, but definitely not a long-term strategy that I would recommend. Why? you ask. Because when a leader of this type leaves the organization, the organization takes a hit because it doesn't know how to maintain or grow its success. The experience leaves with the leader, not the team.

To combat this scenario, a great leader would place team members into meaningful and well-aligned roles. Put people where they can provide the most value to the team.

Law of the Price Tag   

Success has a price. This isn't to say one should give up their soul to win at all costs, but rather to acknowledge that winning requires sacrifice and hard work. To be an Olympic athlete, one must train consistently and aggressively. 

In my business, we often talk about "staying around the fire." This quote means that winners stay connected to other winners. Like-minded people often associate together. The more one stays around the fire, the more warmth, influence, and like behavior will rub off. 

Therefore, to hang with successful people, members of the team need to pay the price for being there. In business, this means doing the right things that result in winning results. In the beginning, the price may be rather cheap and easy to do. However, as the competition increases, the more it costs to achieve success and maintain it. 

Remember, success doesn't come cheap. Winners who decide to win, decide to pay the price required to come out on top.

Law of the Scoreboard

In sports, we often look to the scoreboard for an indication of where our team stands against the opponent. How does this come into play when we talk about teams and business? The answer rests with first knowing the score.

Whatever the industry, sport, or business, there is always a measurement of success. Some look at profits, others look at the number of people helped, still others may count the number of exposures. Whatever the measurement, knowing the score allows the team to adjust its strategy and effort to alter the outcome of the game. 

Therefore, to encourage action and bring the team around a single focus, try using a very visible scoreboard for all to see. 

Law of the Bench

At first, I thought this chapter was about removing weak players from the game. Fortunately, the chapter talked about the opposite, how to strengthen your weaker players so they can eventually become starting players. 

As leaders build teams, they often start off with whatever they can get their hands on. However, as the team grows in number and strength, it is important to develop not just the superstars, but also the players on the bench. A strong team is better than just a dynamic starting lineup. What happens when someone gets hurt, fouls out, or needs a replacement? If you don't start developing your team members now, they won't be ready to perform when you need them.

Law of Communication

The final law that left an impression upon me was the law of communication. As a blogger and part-time thespian, I believe I possess a talent for communication. Unfortunately, the ability to communicate means nothing if one never uses the skill. That is exactly where I see many leaders fall short, myself included.

The Action Plan

To bring the laws of teamwork to life, it is important to implement them in my every day life. In the following section, I will share a few ideas I have for applying the laws with my teams. The two immediate areas for concern are with the law of the niche and the law of communication. The other three laws, to some degree, are already being implemented within my team.

The Law of the Niche

  • Create a team roster: As I work on developing a game plan for projects, tasks, and events, I need to maintain a list of people who are on my team. What is their contact information? What are their strengths, weaknesses, and interests?
  • Make a list of tasks: In preparation for an upcoming project, task, or event, consider identifying a list of things that must get done in order to be successful. What date should it get done? What skill set is required to complete this task?
  • Assign tasks to people: With a completed task list, now is the time to put a name beside the to-do item. 
  • Follow up: While delegating authority and responsibility is important, as the leader it is also important that you follow up on the task that you've assigned. Also, make sure to explain your expectations at the time of assigning the task. If not, you may be disappointed by the results. 

The Law of Communication

  • Write often: In the beginning of my teamwork effort, I made an effort to send numerous emails to the team. It was mostly announcements and other related news, but there were also times where I shared the vision and goals of the team. Unfortunately, I stopped after receiving little in the way of feedback. Today, I realize how important those message are. Moving forward, correspondences will be done often.  
  • Talk about it: As I alluded to in the previous bullet point, some people just don't read. It doesn't mean writing is without value, it's just that you have to communicate multiple times and in different ways. Hence, it's important to also talk about vision, goals, and ideas often. Don't just write about it, talk about it, too.
  • Be about it: Finally, communication is not just verbal or written, it's also done through action. I've heard numerous times that people do what you do, not what you say. Therefore, as a leader, I need to actively show my alignment with the vision and goals by writing, talking, and doing. 


In closing, I believe this entry will serve as a great reminder of what was memorable from the 17 Laws of Teamwork. This does not mean the other laws are without merit, but rather that my life needed to think about and apply elements from these five areas. 

I know that teamwork is important. As Maxwell writes in the book, "One is too small of a number to achieve greatness." Why? because that's the Law of Significance.

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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