Posted on August 18, 2015

As parents, we can often learn something really insightful from our kids.  Their perspectives are not yet jaded by some of life's harsh realities and often not exposed to people who may not have their best interests/success as a top priority.  My daughter is very involved in All-Star Cheer. Although this is called "cheer," it is exclusively tumbling, stunting, and going to competitions.  There is no "cheering" involved.  When a stunt is perfectly executed we say the stunt "hit."  When it doesn't, it can be (officially called) a bobble, a wobble, a touch-down, or a fall depending on what happened.

I've learned about teamwork from my daughter - outside of the context of workplace politics, baggage, and personal agendas.   I have two examples that stopped me in my tracks:

At each competition there are professional photos that are taken throughout their performance.  As we were reviewing the photos she chose one she wanted to purchase.  It was of her stunt group.  I said, "But you're in the back and I can't even see you, why would you want this picture?"  Without missing a beat she turned to me and replied, "Mom, that stunt hit perfectly.  That means we all did our jobs and the picture isn't of us, it's of what we can do."  SAY WHHAAATTT?  What a team-based mindset.  It's not about us, it's about what we can do together.  Not about individuals being seen, credited, or recognized.  If one person in that stunt didn't "hit" the stunt fails.  Responsibility and accountability of each role on the team are the foundation, but to repeat myself - Teamwork is about what we accomplish together.  The outcome not the individuals are the achievement.

The second example also occurred at a competition.  As you can guess, sometimes stunts don't "hit" at competition.  When one of the issues I mentioned above (bobble, wobble, etc) happens obviously the team loses points.  We've all heard that a team is only as strong as the weakest member.  That's true, but doesn't negate the accountability of the entire team.  In this particular competition, my daughter's stunt group had two errors.  After they finish competing the girls watch the video as a team, and then they come out to parents and families.  My daughter came up to me, I hugged her and told her they were fantastic.   Then I said this, "So who screwed up?"  I know, I know, repeating it, I'm a little embarrassed by my question, but this is a teamwork story, not a parenting award story.  Anyway, to answer my question of "Who screwed up?" She said, "The stunts didn't hit.  That's all our responsibility to make happen.  It's no one person's fault or screw up.  It's on us all."  WOW!!  Even retelling this story here I get goosebumps at her answer.  Imagine what it would be like if we never pointed a finger - or throw someone under the bus, as we like to say - but rather said, "We're all responsible for what went wrong."  Not a singling out, but a team accountability - success or not.

To recap, the two lessons in a nutshell:  What our team can do is what counts, not the individuals and we're all responsible when something goes right or wrong.  These lessons, taught to me by a 10 year old, could really make a difference in our performance and culture if we can put them into practice.