No man is an island or a team

During a recent conversation in the office about football, someone said, “You can’t build a team around one person.” This line resonated with me like an echo through a canyon. It reminded me of poet John Donne’s line, “No man is an island.” Like an onion, there are a lot of layers to it.

  1. Do research on any person who has ever had any kind of success. No one ever claims to have done it all by themselves. If this were true, when scholars accepted the Nobel Prize or actors stepped on stage to receive their Oscar, there would be no thank-yous in the acceptance speeches.
  2. If a team is built around a single person – or quarterback – once that person fails, and it’s inevitable, the whole team fails. If a team is recruited and made up of many strengths and weaknesses, if one person fails, the rest of the team’s stance will still be strong. No productivity is lost. No one really loses.
  3. When hiring for a team – be it for a bookkeeper or a running back – that person needs to be hired as an addition to the team, a contributor, not a savior. If you’re a football coach, you don’t want a strong offense with a weak defense and vice versa. The goal is to be strong all around.
  4. Building a team is about physics. Have you ever seen the paper towel commercial where, to prove the competition’s weakness, the towel is soaked and the marbles fall through? The weight was centered in one spot, causing the structure to falter. If you build a team around one person, one ideal, one strength, that structure will falter as well.
  5. Donne’s original text (“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”) also includes the famous line, “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (Didn’t think you were going to get an English literature lesson, did you?) In plain English, we can all learn something from every death. Sounds sad at first, but if you take it apart, it simply means every life is connected, and we can all learn from each other. In a sense, we’re all a team.

There are so many clichés that can fit into this discussion, because it’s not a new idea (remember “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’”?). Donne wrote about it in 1624, yet companies falter and teams lose because of it every day. No man – or woman – is an island, and neither does it a team make.

Tiffannie Bond is a media relations specialist and company photographer at Imagine Communications. Email Tiffannie here.

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