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Team over self.


One of the standout features of high performance teams is the concept of ‘team over self’.

The All Blacks rugby team knows that everyone, including the CEO and Captain, are subordinate to the All Blacks jersey and its history. The senior players take their turn cleaning the locker room after matches.

The Australian fighter pilot knows his job is to contribute to the squadron’s operational effectiveness, not to aim for self-glory. Self-awareness and humility are the reality, despite the popular cultural references to the contrary.

High Performance Organisations:


  • Leaders sacrifice for the organisation and for their team. (Sacrifice time, energy, promotion, self)

  • Information is shared freely and widely. No-one withholds information for personal gain.

  • Delegation is ubiquitous. Decision making and responsibility is pushed down to the lowest viable level.

  • The organisational purpose is clear and meaningful…and is not profit alone.

Low Performance Organisations:


  • Managers are primarily concerned with their own career path.

  • Information is withheld, as it is useful for personal gain.

  • Micromanaging is common, as rewards are linked to outcomes, not behaviours.

  • Ultimately, profit is the real driving force despite what may be advertised on the values statement.

One of the fundamental reasons the military has proved effective at building quality leaders is the focus on ‘team over self’. From the very beginnings of basic training, you are told the team is everything, you are nothing. If you fail, the team fails. If an individual falls short, the team is punished.

If you want to build a high performance team, then it is critical you don’t recruit individuals who have a history of self-service. Look for evidence of self-sacrifice and commitment to others. Find staff with a history of working towards a purpose or vision unrelated to financial gain.

Prioritise these over technical ability. Recall that Toto Wolff, an investment banker with no experience in aerodynamics, power plants or chassis development, took over the Mercedes F1 team and began a cultural shift which has seen them become one of the most successful sporting teams in history. He did this by building an environment where OTHERS can excel.

What do you see in your organisation? Are your leaders constantly serving the purpose and vision of the team? Are they sacrificing themselves for the greater good of the business?

Start recruiting the best person for the team.

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