You have probably heard of the Twelfth Man which, in an American football game, refers to the impact of the fans in attendance. Their cheering can inspire the home team to great heights while at the same time making noise that can play a part in undoing the visiting side.
This is a great example of how what we call a team is actually more than just the players on the field. In fact, when you think for a moment about a major sports franchise, there’s the medical staff, the trainers, the ticket takers, the office staff, the scouts, the vendors providing food in the stands, the list goes on. And all of these contribute in big and small ways to team success. If the food is bad, the fans are unhappy, if the scouts don’t do well, the team gets bad information on the other team, if the office staff doesn’t perform, the team may miss paychecks, if the ticket takers don’t do their job, fans get held up which impacts their excitement or some people might get in without paying which impacts revenue, you can see how it all adds up. All of these stakeholders are actually parts of the team, even if only from a distance.
So, think about it, who’s on your team? What I mean is, who do you consider part of your business’s team? My experience is that many business leaders think of investors or shareholders as their team while line-level managers might think of the people who work for the business as their team like players on the field. However, aren’t there others you should consider?
Before we answer that question, let’s first think about the endgame of your business. If you’re like most business people, you immediately think of making a profit. And while making a profit is important, it’s not the reason you exist. Think of it this way, we all have to breathe to live but the purpose of life isn’t to breathe, it is, hopefully, a whole variety of other, nobler things. Likewise, the purpose of business isn’t to just profit, it’s to deliver value and help people achieve objectives. Without delivering something of value, there would be no profit. So, who values from your business? I can think of five parties.
- Investors/Shareholders: return on investment
- Suppliers: revenue and a market for their goods and services
- Employees: a place to do meaningful work, earn a livelihood, and have opportunities to grow and learn
- Community: tax base and contributor to the common good
- Customers: goods and services that help in achieving objectives
On the flip-side of this, each of these constituents also provide value for the business.
- Investors/Shareholders: provide capital
- Suppliers: provide resources and tools
- Employees: provide labor (physical, intellectual, creative)
- Community: provides infrastructure
- Customers: provide a market as well as revenue and marketing to spread the word about you
The point is this. Many of us in business think one dimensionally about all of the partnerships necessary for the success of our enterprise and many times that one dimension is investors or shareholders or maybe only our workforce, however, this thinking leaves out so many others who should be considered, so many others who are partners with you. All of your decisions and the value you provide should take those others into account. If one suffers, the entire team eventually suffers, or at best, struggles to overcome obstacles presented by the poor partner relationships.
Start thinking of all of your stakeholder constituents as partners on your team and see what changes for you. How does this thinking change how you treat them? Do you now want to help them to be successful in the same way you hope they help you? Imagine how this symbiotic thinking can change your business.