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Playing for the Same Team, by Jacob the Intern

The recent weeks were very exciting in the field of HR here in Chicago. The 65th annual SHRM Conference, held at McCormick Place in the city is a great opportunity to network with other businesses and learn about what HR challenges they are facing and the solutions they are finding to overcome these challenges. But, without a doubt, among the many highlights of this years conference was the speech and presentation given by former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, arguably the most influential woman of the last 25 years.

While I was not able to attend the conference, my boss, Nicole Martin was able to transcribe most of Mrs. Clinton’s speech to me in an email. The speech had several main, and far-ranging points. She discussed how to make good decisions, the difference between shouting and whistle blowing, and the importance of showing up to ensure success. But the point that struck me as being the most significant was when she addressed the importance to teamwork.

Before the 2008 presidential election, Mrs. Clinton had her sights set on obtaining the Democratic nomination. After months of campaigning, the two candidates that remained in close contention to represent the Democrats in ’08 were Clinton and Barak Obama. Obviously, President Obama eventually defeated Mrs. Clinton in the primaries, and went on to become the President of the United States. But that is only where the story of teamwork begins.

After spending months, if not years, as bitter political rivals, President Obama took a risk in appointing Mrs. Clinton to the role of Secretary of State. The risk did not lie in whether or not the former First Lady was capable of fulfilling the duties of Secretary of State, as she was more than qualified to take on such an important role. The risk was in regards to whether or not the former foes would be able to set aside their past differences and work towards common goals.

As Mrs. Clinton put it, “leadership is a team sport.” Whenever there are people working in the same company they always share common goals of success. Conflicts may arise when there are discrepancies as how to most effectively and efficiently achieve those goals. The thing to remember is that nothing will ever be accomplished if the conflict becomes a distraction from the goal that both parties obviously want to achieve. A difference in opinion is not a negative, but should be seen as an opportunity for teamwork and collaboration, a chance for open dialogue to lead to even better solutions that yield even more profitable outcomes.

Mrs. Clinton described her relationship with Obama as having gone from being “rivals to an unrivaled team.” This is something that leaders in all companies should strive to achieve. When leaders are able to get on the same page, possibilities for innovative solutions arise. The opinions that once divided two people should not be totally discarded, but rather should be combined to find the ultimate and ideal solution. Leaders within the same organization need to realize that they are not competing against each other, but need to be working together. Mrs. Clinton asserts the importance of putting “the common good ahead of personal competition.”

Creating a cohesive unit is not something that will happen overnight, and it certainly will not be easy. It is something that requires constant effort and maintenance from all the involved parties. But the results of creating a cohesive team are too great to ignore. Imagine if Scottie Pippen was constantly comparing his scoring totals to Michael Jordan. It would have become a divisive issue that would have caused friction and derailed the Chicago Bulls on their quest to bring home as many NBA Championships as possible. For Pippen, the only statistic that he cared about was wins. Arguably the ultimate team player, Scottie constantly placed the organizational goals about his personal ones.

While Mrs. Clinton’s impressive presentation was full of tips that are all crucial to the long-term health and success of a company, her point about the importance of teamwork struck me as being the most important, as well as potentially the most difficult of them all. In the competitive environment of the modern business world, no man is an island. Teamwork will always be a key element to success.

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