2034-2230236391_cac4c69985_m.jpgIt’s a concern of mine that despite all our social media, people still don’t do things together.

Words like community, team, collaboration, relational, participatory, social – they are all over Twitter, but then when you share these links or comment on these posts, do you get a reply? When you ask people not what they say about social media, but if they are doing social media, how many are building connections and really collaborating?

The truth is that working together is hard.

It’s hard because we grow up today in a such a me-focussed world and live such me-focussed lives that the preference of others and putting others first that is required for team work doesn’t come easily.

Case in point: communication. Every Sunday at church, we have a team who handle the sound, the lighting and the audio/video content. They all link into each other, yet when Sunday comes and they are working together, I was rarely hearing them talk to each other, and as such, the whole Sunday experienced suffered.

Why was this? Because they were used to living in their own minds and focussing on their own angle, that they were almost unaware of the others around who needed their support and communication. Now that I’m teaching them communication and helping them see the need for the big picture and to give of themselves to each other, they are working far more powerfully as a team.

Malcolm Gladwell writes some very interesting stuff about this – particular in the area of focus – in his book Blink (affiliate link.) With focus, we tend to close off what’s going around and zoom in onto one thing. And I think that technology has heightened this ability within us – for good and for bad. Think about the hundreds of millions of knowledge workers who spend all day with computers, not uttering a world as they live inside their head and shift digital paper. What they are getting better at is having a tight focus. What they are getting worse at is looking up.

In order to get on together we need to look up. We need to prefer one another. Valuing the person in front of us. I’m shocked by how much ego I still see – people clamoring for the attention, to give their point of view, to ensure they are heard and that they get the credit. You know what I decided? I’m going to give the credit rather than get the credit.

Your Leading Thoughts

  1. When did you learn to really work together? What was the time that switch you from being me-focussed to we-focussed?
  2. If you could give one tip to people that would help them become team players, what would it be?

Photo courtesy of Jeff Bauche

Archived Comments

  • http://twitter.com/Suellen_Hughes Suellen Hughes

    Hi Scott, great blog. Very thought provoking on a few fronts for me.

    First, thinking about *social* media, I do find it quite social and have made lots of good connections with people but when I reflect on this, most of the truly social connections (as opposed to people *promoting* themselves or their businesses) do seem to be more collaborative, participative and have a sense of community. Why is it that business has to be so much more about taking rather than giving?

    Second, I do worry sometimes about communication within my own family when I look around and my husband is in his study engrossed in something on his computer, I’m doing the same and our 6yr old son is also immersed in his own world. I try to call time out for all of us and we have “living in the real world” days where we do things away from technology. It takes a conscious effort though.

    Finally, to answer your questions about learning to work together? Funnily enough, it was in corporate world. Experiencing the sense of achievement and fun working with colleagues to deliver a tough project or to find a new way of doing something. Switching from me to we, I find happens when we realise that we don’t have the skills, experience etc to do it alone and that by working with others, we achieve greater things (often).

    My tip for others? Give without expecting something in return. Experience the joy of contributing to the greater good.

    Thanks for the blog Scott.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Suellen – thanks for the comments

    Sounds like you’ve had pretty positive experiences compared to the ones that I see! I think the fact that you do what you do means you’ve got this positive outlook on people and see the potential within each person. Unfortunately, many others don’t have this trait.

    I hear what you’re saying about finding it hard at home. Ive written quite a bit about this – most pertinently, to also prefer the people in front of you over the digital. If someone else enters the room, I close the laptop and focus on them.

    Good tip as well :-)


  • http://twitter.com/LaKotipelto Johanna Kotipelto

    Scott, thank you again for a very sharp analysis of the so called “social”!

    Your post came in just as I had wrote a comment to a friend of mine: she has a Down sister and the municipality is not doing what the law requires. My friend decided to start a blog bringing out in the open all the things that need repair. In addition, she tweets about it and has a Facebook-page. Her networks have woken up to do their share in their networks – things are getting ahead (just as @IdeaGov blogged about Gov2.0).

    That is an excellent example of how people get drawn in: it’s passion that drives us. In my experience, passion is unknown to most people in business, hence the lame participation. In my Twitter network, I receive an answer from, say, a bit over 20 people if the question is unaddressed. Lesson: my questions don’t arise passion! *LOL*)

    You asked about sharing. I so agree with what Suellen said! For me it began with a colleague. She’s a true collaborator, which was so odd when she first came in. I can still remember the comments I heard, Watch out, she steals everybody’s work, she doesn’t know anything on her own. It took a while to get rid of those “glasses” and really see who she was and why her way was worth looking into!

    In an environment of traditional experts we still drive a bumpy road, her and me. Sharing is still a threat: it’s like taking a Mona Lisa to an exhibition – unsigned. But we are becoming a club..a crowd..a posse! Last spring we were already 7-10 people working together and thriving from each other!

    The real change for me started at a time of oppression. I realized I didn’t have space to grow in that old environment. If I wanted to move on, it had to be with other experts outside my office. Sharing seemed the only way, This is who I am (and know), I’d like to learn from you, what can I do for you?

    The acknowledgements just started to pour in. And as others came asking for me, people in our office (not all, though) also woke up. Expertise and value can’t be, can’t afford to be, hidden forever.

    My tip would be rewarding a solo flyer with recognition, acknowledgement. Then asking whether their experience could be used also in another project. A team with a rich combination of skills but in a situation where nobody can thrive alone, is a test bed where you can present questions or targets that can only be truly reached together, in collaboration.

    Suellen said it beautifully: Give without expecting something in return.

  • http://twitter.com/VelChain Dave Lutz

    Scott, another winning post! When I think of team, it reminds me a lot of a book I read called “High Five, The Magic of Working Together” by Blanchard and Bowles. It’s a good read for younger folks and helps make you realize how good a team can be when everyone is contributing. All of us, are smarter than one of us. It’s also a priceless read for coaches that need to get the most out of a team…check your ego at the door.

  • / Scott Gould


    Thank for you for this wonderful comment!

    I agree – it is passion, hunger, relationship that pulls us in. It “gathers us together” as I keep saying.

    It’s interesting how you bring up the issue that some people won’t share or collaborate because they are afraid other’s will take their work. This is a very real threat that needs to be talked about more. I’m write about it next week.

    The point is, as you say, that as you being to make other’s dreams happen, yours happens. Someone said recently that only if you give it away, will you get it back!


  • / Scott Gould

    Dave, thanks for the kind words. I have only the highest respect for you and Jeff, so those words really mean something – thank you.

    I’ll be sure to pick up this book (I’m a fan of Blanchard). I agree that “all of us are smarter than one of us”, yet many just don’t see this because they won’t check their ego at the door.

    I said a while ago that there is this social media catch 22 in that it’s social, but everyone is competing on an individual level. The trick is to get over yourself, and build something with others!


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1341154669 Codi Dillon Spodnik

    Scott, again it’s amazing to me how timely this post is and how applicable it is to what is directly in front of me.

    I have found that my natural skill set is in communication. I love to collaborate. I love to network. My favorite thing to do is to introduce my friends and colleagues to one another, in any context, making connections and seeing the sparks fly between them. I love to make new friends and to find out about the experiences and perceptions of others.

    In traditional working environments, because I tend to “flit about” and find out what others are working on, I don’t make a very good employee. My natural tendency is to see the parts of what others are doing, envision how they fit together and try to solve problems or see ahead to potential bumps in the road. In some of my jobs, this was very annoying to supervisors who would much rather I “shut up and sit down” at my computer. I have been reprimanded sharply over the years for my inability to keep my head down.

    Now, after my hiatus as a stay-at-home mom, my network has changed greatly. I’ve observed VERY different parenting styles and VERY different temperaments in our group of kids. We’ve had much talk about fostering relationships, how children build friendship, teaching collaboration and sharing over selfishness, etc.

    All these years, I’ve thought that my natural abilities were a detriment to my focus. I thought that because I wasn’t able to sit still long enough to become a specialist in any very small niche I wasn’t valuable. Turns out, my natural abilities ARE valuable. Turns out, most of my friends are introverts who enjoy learning how to connect and depend on me to help them do it.

    At these moment, I see it less as “selfish” and more as a habitual tendency to stay in one’s comfort zone. An introvert is more likely to sit down and work on his solo endeavor and is often mystified by others’ ability to collaborate.

    I’ve been volunteering and networking in person in my local community, while studying up on some skills that would be useful and….it turns out that these organizations I’m helping find my questions and brainstorming and chatting really helpful! It’s exciting not to be considered a “pest” anymore!

    So this is the very thing I struggle with as I am wrapping up my studies and sending my oldest off to kindergarten. It’s time for me to put this in some framework and define what it is I can offer and find a way to make some kind of income from it. However, I am having so much fun giving my time away for free that I want to continue doing that and I am having trouble finding words to really describe it, so those are my obstacles. (I appreciate that book recommendation below and will look for that today – maybe it has some great descriptive words in it – Thanks, Dave!).

    I’m thinking of this tendency to connect people or others’ tendencies not to connect as more of a natural talent/comfort level issue, rather than a conscious choice in most cases. Perhaps I’m just naive?

  • http://twitter.com/LaKotipelto Johanna Kotipelto

    Thanks, Scott!

    I definitely agree: it does need to be talked about – shouted about. If the fear blocks the collaboration, the outcome is smaller . Thus it’s a real risk, a hindrance and a blockage in the way of development. Let alone, how little of so much is actually shared to the world to be found: because of fear, wonderful things are being buried into oblivion. So, it will be really interesting to read your post on the subject.

    What you quoted reminds me of another great quote: the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Johanna

    I’m definitely writing about this next week, because I’ve gone through the same fears myself.

    As for the quote… that’s all from the Bible, as is “the greatest among you is the one that serves”. Human behaviour hasn’t really changed much over 6,000 years!


  • / Scott Gould


    Wow! Thank for your sharing so much of your heart and current situation. I’m glad this post is timely for you – indeed it seem that many of the issues we’re discussing are pertinent for many.

    I, like you, love to meet people. I actually find it relaxing to meet new people and talk to them. I however, unlike you, have never been in the corporate environment so haven’t been in your situation.

    From the sounds of things, you are a generalist, not a specialist (/building-the-kingdom-gener...)

    A generalist is a big picture person, who can unite specialists together. Specialists are detail people who struggle to look up and see the big picture. They both need each other.

    You need to realise that any job that is about details and single focus won’t work for you. You need to be in a generalist role that pulls others’ strengths together.

    I’d highly recommend Codi that you subscribe to http://www.radsmarts.com, an exceptional biz- and self-dev blog by Robin Dickinson. The discussions that take place there – and the way his community help each other out – will be highly valuable to you.

    The world is moving from creation to curation. It *is* swinging in your favour – it’s becoming a place where people like you who can link people together have power and can generate revenue. But it takes time and listening and building trust first.


  • http://twitter.com/LaKotipelto Johanna Kotipelto

    Codi, thank you for sharing.

    We have a lot in common, and seem to be on the verge of Everything is possible =)
    All the best!


  • / Scott Gould

    Definitely some #likeminds here

  • http://www.sytaylor.net sytaylor

    The first rule of networking is “Give value”. The second rule of networking is “Don’t quote fight club”.

    The Give value rule is a good one to live by, because the young talent is so “me” focussed it will often struggle to realise what it has to offer. I’d share your point about the corporate world teaching working towards a goal. That sense of pulling together, and achievement is why we get out of bed in a morning.

    Must say though, I suffer from both a lack of focus & a lack of looking up. Which strikes me as being a salient point. We can know we need to balance both embracing focus & focussing on embracing others… but experience will teach us how to do it. Repetition wins.

  • / Scott Gould

    Sy, do you seriously struggle with not looking up? The other day you said you were certainly NOT a specialist but a generalist.

    Am I not right?

  • http://www.sytaylor.net sytaylor


    I see all of you doing great things & I want to connect at help you. My key point was that despite this, doing it consistently & doing it well is the challenge. Both are areas we can all work on I imagine. Recognising an area for improvement is the first step to fixing it :)

  • / Scott Gould

    Ah, ok :-)