When times are tough, how well do your lowest ranking team mates do?
As a leader have you prepared your lowest ranking team mates to perform at optimum levels?  When the going gets tough you might need them when you least expect it.

A couple of years ago I was out in Phoenix and I had the opportunity to sit down one on one with a team mate of Michael Jordan’s from the Chicago Bulls.  I said Joe, I love Michael, can you tell me anything about him.  Joe said, ‘three things; 1) Michael was the most prepared person I have ever known, 2) Michael was the most competitive person I have ever encountered, and 3) Michael was the best team mate I ever had.’

I found this incredibly interesting because Joe, Joe Courtney was a utility player, a fringe player in the NBA.  Now trust me I wish I was good enough to be a fringe player in the NBA.  But Michael Jordan understood in the flash of an eye lash, the lowest ranking player on the team can become the most important member of the team because of an injury or foul trouble.  Michael Jordan prepared everyone on his team to immediately become the most important member of the team.  No wonder the Chicago Bulls won those six NBA titles.

What do you do to prepare every member of your team to become the most important member of your team?  Or are you one of those people who think it will never happen to me?

I would caution you not to think that way, it could happen to you.  It happened to me in a big way, in a very crucial way.  I was flying as the pilot, the Captain of the ship for a four person crew one night on a combat mission during Desert Storm when the lowest ranking member of the crew in the blink of an eye became the most important member of the team. 

Our team was thrown into a deadly and challenging situation when the two engines on our left wing came completely off the airplane in flight.  We get the airplane under control, fly her back an hour and fifteen minutes to a suitable landing base and then Steve Stucky our lowest ranking team mate becomes the most important member of the team. 

I asked Steve how long it would take him to lower the landing gear manually – each of the three individual landing gear trucks had to be lowered separately.  Steve said it would take him seven minutes.  I told Steve we would not have seven minutes, but only three or four minutes and asked Steve if he could successfully get the landing gear down in that time frame?  Steve said he could.

When Steve started to lower the landing gear he was unquestionably THE most important member of the team.  Without the landing gear being lowered properly we would not have been able to make a successful landing.

You need to prepare all members of your team to be the most important member of your team, because at some point in time they will be.  If you have prepared them you and your team will be successful.

Kevin Sweeney
Author of: Pressure Cooker Confidence: How to Lead When the Heat is On and also Conversations with the Colonel, Lessons in Life, Leadership, and Wisdom.

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