“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan
This past weekend, I had the great pleasure of watching my wife sing with her choir at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The music minister at our church was invited to be a guest conductor and was granted permission to form his own choir. As I sat in the balcony taking it all in, beaming with pride for my wife and all those involved in this once-in-a-lifetime-experience, I started thinking about how this choir came together.
Our music minister formed a choir made up of people from all over the country. In fact, two of the other choirs who performed that day had only just met and practiced together that weekend. It blew my mind how such a large group of people could join forces, in some cases having never performed together, and sound so in sync, singing complicated pieces of music requiring the eight-part harmonies and dynamics, all the while evoking emotion in those who listened.
As I watched in awe, my mind wandered, and I thought about how not only skill, but working as a team is critically important to the successful sound of a choir. It brought to mind research that Google conducted to understand what it is that made a Google team “effective”.
When I got back home, I reread Google’s The Five Keys to a Successful Team and was reminded of the conclusion that came out of their work: who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work and view their contributions. It all made sense to me.
These choirs were successful because they had a clear goal, they knew their contributions would amount to something special for others (and was most likely an exciting opportunity for them as well), motivating them to both work hard on their own and as a team to produce the best possible outcome.
It’s easy to connect this to what we do at IRIS. As we have grown from a team of 15 to over 40, our team members have always recognized the importance of collaboration and how it’s crucial to our success. Last year, we formed a focus group of employees from all departments to define our core values, which we call The IRIS Way, which serves as an acronym for our ‘7 most important values.’
One of those values that is a cornerstone to the culture we want to embody is ‘Working as a team.’ Just like the choir ensembles, we understand the contribution our team can make - the meaning of our work is helping prevent diabetic patients from going blind. But to do so, we must also continue to work on building solid team structure and role clarity, impacting dependability and team psychology.
This past weekend allowed me to think of how our small, but ever-growing and strong company is like a Jazz ensemble, each of us playing an instrument that together sounds beautiful, adapting as we go but always staying true to our core – Jazz or the mission. And as we add talented practitioners to our ensemble, it’s not about our skills as individual contributors, but our relentless focus on how we work as a team that empowers our teammates and our clients to continue the mission of ending preventable blindness.