Three Ways Leaders Can Succeed on the “Same Team”

My son’s 7th grade basketball season finished last week.  I had a great season cheering him on along with the other parents.  There’s an excitement being part of the crowd recognizing our players for amazing shots or passes.  In our enthusiasm and having watched enough basketball games in our tenure, we parents also become sideline coaches and referees to make the game even more engaging!

During a game, it’s not unusual for us to shout out plays or point out to the referee mistakes he called.  In addition to providing encouragement to our players, we also feel the need to provide direction to them on who’s open for a pass, the positive affirmation to shoot the ball, or reminding the players to rebound the ball.  One call that brings laughter to the crowd is when two players on the same team come down from the hoop fighting for the ball.  At that moment, we are screaming to the players, “Same Team! Same Team!”.  It’s frustrating when two players on the same team are fighting for the same ball.  Not only is a lot of time and energy wasted, but there’s also potential for an unnecessary foul or injury to take place.


In a school, there’s a similar sense of danger when two leaders on the same team, going for the same goal, end up fighting with each other.  As educational leaders, it’s important for us to recognize and call out ourselves when we are doing this.  And, it’s also important to know how to effectively work together for success.  For high performing teams, it’s not a question whether “if” it’s going to happen, but “when”.  Similar to two basketball players getting caught fighting for the same ball, here are Three Ways Leaders Can Succeed on the “Same Team”:

#1 – Open Your Eyes

When I watch two young basketball teammates fighting for the same ball, I often notice their eyes are closed.  In their intense desire to get the ball, their focus is only on the ball.  So, regardless who is on the other end of it, they cluth the ball pulling it in their own direction.

To be effective as a leader, it’s important to open your eyes.  Take time to notice the person you are “battling” with and consider the following –

  • Does that person have the same goals you do?
  • Is that person someone who you have a relationship with and proven their trust?

#2 – Let It Go

Once the two players open their eyes, it’s important for one of them (the hope is just one; no need for both), to let the ball go.  Yet, the struggle can continue if both teammates believe they can do something better than the other.

From a leadership perspective, leaders need to consider the “Cloud Technique” as part of the Theory of Constraints:


In the illustration above, the top two rectangles depict the perspective of one person, and the bottom two rectangles of another person.  If the two leaders are really moving towards the left with the same common objective, then it becomes a question of understanding the wants and needs of each person.  With enough perspective, it’s possible for a decision to meet the needs of both people.  But, the wants of each person may be in conflict.  Therefore, the leader may need to forfeit his/her want in order to satisfy the needs of both as well as meet the common objective.

#3 – Move Forward

This last way for leaders to ensure they are on the same team for success is to move forward.  Too often, leaders get caught up in keeping stats on how many possessions, shots, assists, or steals were made as an individual.  Instead, they need to think, act, and work as part of the team.  Although you might not have the ball or get your way, it doesn’t mean you stop playing or trying.

For success, leaders need to move forward with the team.  This last way can be best shared in this story about “The Two Monks and a Woman”:

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his 

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.

Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”


As you continue in your leadership journey, it’s important to keep in mind you work on a team with other committed colleagues with the same goal as yours.  If there are times when you feel a struggle with your teammates, it’s important to recognize you are all on the “Same Team” and think about these three ways for success.  GO TEAM!

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