On my radio show last week we had a fun tussle over one of those age-old questions. I was asking guests and callers this either/or: If you could either pick a team of great talent but just good teamsmanship, or a team of good talent but great teamsmanship, which would you pick? In response, MSU football Coach Mark Dantonio said (paraphrasing here): there’s something to be said for a great quarterback, but he said that he constantly tells his team games are won and lost by inches, and that’s where the team comes in. Did you watch the Super Bowl last night? Touchdowns at the end of the first and second half were decided by less than inches.
If you’re an Oscars fan, then you’ll remember an extraordinary scene from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, in which inches and seconds dictate all the meanings that matter.
What gets lost in the spectacular catches, tackles, and the super-slow motion of football or film, is that for that one frame of highlight film, there are thousands of frames of a guard and tackle working together, a coach spending extra minutes, a player lifting 10 pounds more 10 more times. In every film, there is a truth that could be told, a line that could be spoken, an act that could be taken that would avert tragedy or secure victory. And so much more so in life.
It makes me wonder in this spectacular recession – where we look to Obaman heroes and Madoffian villains – how a few inches can matter. There’s a magnificent mortgage crisis, but there are also thousands of lenders and millions of borrowers, each of whom could or can execute with purpose and with values. Great companies will survive, and not so great companies will perish. Leaders matter. But so do those million daily choices people make on the teams they’re on, as they pit: good enough vs. great, fully honest vs. mostly true, self-preserving vs. generous, win-win vs. win-lose or win-tie, faith-filled vs. cynical, merciful vs. vengeful, or trusting vs. doubting.
There’s a level of talent you can’t control a whole lot, but there are decisions of teamwork that you make hourly, every day, decisions that ask you, will you
Lead with your best self?