Band of Brothers

…or South Park kids?

Todd Ordal

If you’re like me, perhaps a certain musical piece can send your mind to a wonderful place.

I returned home recently from a business trip where I saw a particularly engaging company with a bright, tight-knight leadership team that focused on doing business the “right” way. As I thought about my interaction with these people, I listened to music on my iPhone with my prized Bose noise-canceling earbuds. The Band of Brothers Requiem queued up — a beautiful piece.

Perhaps you saw this miniseries, one of the best things I’ve seen on television, depicting real soldiers in WWII. It dawned on me that the most engaged, committed teams I’ve been part of or worked with had much in common with the Band of Brothers soldiers.

I’m not delusional. Nothing we do in business will match the bravery or sacrifice of soldiers in war, but some themes are common.

A business band of brothers[1] (BBOBs) shares a common foxhole. They know one another well because they spend a good deal of time together. Yes, technology can support this, but they value face time. They may not like all of their brothers’ behaviors, but they trust them and know how they’ll react in tough situations.

The BBOBs have certain roles to play, and they rely on one another. If one man falters, another picks up the slack, at least temporarily. They know, however, that success in their specific role is not real success. Only taking the designated hill counts as real success. They all win or fail together.

The BBOBs require leadership to succeed just like real soldiers. If you watched the series, you know that without clear objectives and guidance from a commanding officer, the brothers can’t succeed. Confusion reigns and progress stops. In real war, a weak leader can lose ground and risk lives. In business, a weak leader can squander resources and destroy value.

If the BBOB is a highly functioning unit, it has open communication and debate. The brothers are comfortable speaking their minds in meetings, but once the decision is made, they align, commit and coordinate tactics. There’s no room for dissenting action once the battle begins. There’s a clear mission, and strategy is not left to chance.

Although it’s the team that wins or loses, it’s often individual courage that brings the brothers together. Courageous (though not stupid) acts help raise the whole team’s performance. Individual courage, however, is not grandstanding. It’s for the team’s benefit.

Is your team more like the Band of Brothers or the kids from South Park?

[1] Sisters as well!

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