The Art of the Assist – Part 1

“Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.”

-Henry Ford

Before you can ever make an assist, you’ve got to join a team or put one together (unless you like throwing assists to yourself). This is what Henry Ford mentions as “coming together.” It is merely the beginning, the first step to success. However, it lays the groundwork that will determine not only the frequency, ease, and style with which people will make assists, but the levels of success to which those assists will lead. While endless volumes have been written on the topic of team building, I break it down into 2 key parts: a person’s “character” and “skill.”

When I look at character from a team building standpoint, it’s all about integrity and a sense of duty. I use integrity here as it’s used in western ethics, meaning a person having an intuitive sense of honesty and truthfulness in regard to the motivations for one’s actions. Duty, on the other hand, refers to a moral commitment to someone or something without considering the previously relevant self-interested courses of action (both definitions from wikipedia). While neither of these character components are necessary to build an assist-capable team, their prevalence amongst team members amplifies each person’s ability to make more – and better – assists. People with integrity and a sense of duty on a team are more likely to understand their collective strength emanates from their coming together and commitment to each other, and this awareness allows them to rely on the power of the assist rather than on peoples’ abilities to be all-stars.

The other component, skill, is one’s learned expertise employed to achieve a certain result. No doubt you want your team members to have the necessary skills for a particular endeavor. The broader and deeper the skills they have, the more capable they are of making great assists and helping the team achieve success.

When putting together a team, it’s easy to become caught up in visions of wild success based on people with impressive skill sets. One risk with teams composed of highly talented members is that of an all-star believing he or she can carry the team to success on his or her own, without the assistance of, or with limited help from, any other teammates. As this belief becomes more prevalent, the team’s assist-making potential decreases, as team members defer to the all-star. And while the short term effect can be positive, the long term effect is usually less than desirable. It is as they often say: “All-stars win games, teams win championships.” And when a team wins championships, it’s due in large part to it’s assist making; its capacity to transcend its parts and become one functioning unit. An additional risk of focusing on skill sets at the expense of character is a team unable to flex when the going gets tough. It is in challenging and changing times that a sense of duty helps team members adjust, as they oftentimes have to place the team’s interests above their own to make it through.

So here’s the soundbite: “A requisite for any assist is the team itself. Choose yours wisely. The better your team, the more assists you’ll have, the better your assists will be, and the greater your levels of success.”

Part 2 coming soon!

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