My fellow Americans… We don’t hear that much anymore, do we? When you look at your neighbors, do you see fellow Americans? Or do you see an enemy? Are you distributing the Ultimate Loser litmus test? (Who did you vote for in 2016 and who are you voting for in 2020?) I am a consultant that builds winning teams, and I have a proposition for you. This is something I have wanted to do for the longest time. I only hope it’s not too late.
What if, for the next week, each of us operated as if we were on Team America? What if we did not denigrate those who might have a political view that’s different from our own? What if every time we entered a building, we simply held the door for someone else and smiled, saying to yourself, “My fellow American…” What if we didn’t share crap on Facebook that’s designed to fragment and polarize us? What if we stopped using the F-word in social media? What if we chose virtue over divisiveness?
My job is to help teams reach their full potential. I focus on effective use of talent, time, and energy. To that end, I invite you to consider two concepts and keep them front and center for one week. After one week, you can let them go or stick with it. It’s up to you, and I trust you to make your own judgment. I’m not in the business of telling you how to think.
Concept #1: A unified team outperforms a fragmented team.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my work with successful teams, it’s that building a unified team offers a competitive advantage. Unification requires letting go of petty disagreements between teammates (in this case, family and friends). Politics is petty. Here’s how you can verify that for yourself.
If your neighbor has a Biden sign and you have a Trump sign (or vice versa), are you mentally dumping them as a person/family? Are they dead to you? If so, I invite you to ask yourself two questions.
- Has this person/family been kind to me/my family in the past?
- Does this person/family demonstrate good character? Do they try to do the right thing?
- Bonus question: If this person is a corporate teammate, do they do good work?
If the answer to those questions is yes, then let go of the politics. It doesn’t matter. You’ve got what matters. Political energy adds nothing positive to the relationship. It hurts it.
I can hear the screams of, “But what about….!” Whataboutism exists in everything. I don’t care about Whataboutism. I care about Team America. Great teams and teammates CHOOSE to let go of crap that does not matter, crap that hurts and undermines the team, and put the interests of the team first so that they reach their full potential!
I don’t say it’s easy. I say it works IF you want Team America to win. Do you?
A few examples to drive the point home.
- At the end of the senate hearings on the Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, one of the senators thanked an opposing senator for running them well. That compliment was returned. At the close of the session, they shook hands and then hugged. That mortifying show of collaboration and civility (we want people in Washington to work together – well, we say we do…) set off a media frenzy and cancel culture shark fest. That proves we have leaders (including the media) who oppose Team America. They oppose Team America because defeating Team America helps their own agenda. Don’t fall for it. It’s a trap, and you’ll be the one caught in it.
- I read a fabulous article in the Wall Street Journal this week. It was about two neighboring families who each support their presidential candidate. Next to their Trump or Biden sign, they each have another sign that reads: “We (heart) Them” with an arrow pointing to their neighbor. The article talks about how they have family dinners together, love one another without judgment AND wholeheartedly cheer for their respective candidates. This is a great example of Team America!
- I recently selected someone to work for me that I know has political and social views that are different from mine. There were plenty of people I could have chosen. The pool is large for this particular service. I chose this person for three reasons: He is great at what he does. He’s a kind and caring person. And he’s a man of good character. That’s my litmus test for Team America. I don’t give a flying pig about his politics. Would he grant me the same grace? I’ve thought about it. Based on conversations and observations, I think not. But you know what? That is not my problem. That’s his problem. I picked him to help me get the work done, done right, and done nicely. Politics have no impact on his ability to do great work, and I refuse to fall into the trap of caring about his politics. Projecting this concept out a bit further, if tomorrow you were diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and needed immediate surgery, would you have any concern about the political leanings of the surgeon? Or would you focus on your problem and the physician’s ability to solve it? I bet it’s the latter. If you choose to look at life this way, 99% of all the situations you face fall into this bucket. It’s an immense relief.
No matter the outcome of the election, we and the world will face many challenges. We will need a united Team America more than ever. Those a role for you to play, for me to play, for us to play.
Concept #2: You are either helping Team America or hurting Team America
Everything you say or do is either helping Team America or hurting Team America. If you are rude to others because of what they believe, you’re hurting Team America. If you encourage someone to vote without telling them what to think, you’re helping Team America. If you’re generous and kind to those working the checkout lines at the grocery store (do you care who they vote for when they’ve put their lives on the line during Covid 19? God, I hope not.) that is helping Team America. If you throw rocks through the storefront window of the grocery store, you’re hurting Team America. If you’re mean to someone because of their skin color, you’re hurting Team America. If you are polite and treat everyone well, you’re helping Team America.
Everything you do or say is YOUR CHOICE. Nobody opens your mouth and pulls out meanness. Nobody opens your mouth and pulls out kindness. Only you can control what you say or do.
I can again hear howling about Whataboutism! “What about how so and so behaves?” What about it? Is it within your control? Trust that that person’s behavior will have its own consequences because all behavior does have its own consequences, including your own. Be a great example of benevolence and virtue and you’ll have powerful impact on those you interact with. That is a win for Team America. In fact, that’s how we build Team America. There is no other way.
With all of the above in mind, I issue the One Week Team America Challenge!
The One Week Team America Challenge: Choose to help vs hurt Team America for one week even if you’re surrounded by people you believe to be complete and utter idiots.
It is unlikely that everyone around you is a complete and utter idiot (it usually implies a different problem, but I digress). However, I’m willing to accept the worst-case scenario. Seriously, what would it feel like if each of us looked at each person we interact with as a teammate, a colleague, a fellow American and treated them with respect and kindness for one week? Can you do it? I think you can. It’s a leadership challenge of the most personal nature. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll feel better about yourself and your fellow Americans. Maybe you’ll feel so great about it that you adopt this perspective forever!
Despite all the drama around our election, the reality is that the world will go on no matter who wins. You will have to do your job. Someone will have to make dinner. Your kids will have to go to school. You’ll still have to buy groceries and gasoline. There will still be rush hour traffic. You’ll still need to recharge your cell phone and behave well on Zoom. Your boss may still drive you nuts. Life will not change that much, despite what those who are against Team America scream at you from the TV screen or FB or Twitter.
I’m not trying to minimize the importance of the election. I’m trying to maximize your focus/energy on controlling the controllables. How you and your family behave, work and interact with others can be sifted through the “Building Team America” lens. Everything else, done by everyone else, is beyond your control.
Finally, I am completely uninterested in who you vote for. I want you to be completely uninterested in whom I vote for. This choice helps Team America.
My fellow Americans, I’m on your team now. And you are on mine. Let’s do this, people.