While this expression is often attributed to Hillary Clinton’s book about her vision for children in America, in all actuality it was the title of a children’s book a couple of years prior to Hillary’s book. And some even claim that it originated as an African proverb. Regardless of its derivation, to me this expression connotes something different – to me it is about how one’s career often progresses based upon the impacts of others. I recall an award ceremony where the CEO of a company being honored, when thanking the committee issuing the award said, “While I am the one chosen to receive this award, I am but a mere representative of a much larger team that has truly earned this award.” Leaders, no matter how good they may be, are representatives of a larger group.
I have always been a believer that in team-based environments, if each person focuses on what they are best at and allows the other team members to do the same, the outcome will be optimized. Imagine for a moment a baseball or a basketball team. If each player focuses on doing the best they can in their respective positions, the team operates very effectively. In fact, while a coach and a captain are important figures, in general a team will only win when each member adds value to the contributions of each of the other team members.
But the team extends way beyond what you see on field. As Tom Peters points out, “Leaders can have great ideas and great visions, but the only way that change is effected is through people.” And if we, as leaders, are focusing on outcomes, we must reach out to, and rely upon, the members of our village.
For example, my “village” includes family members, friends, co-workers and business colleagues. I have things that I am quite good at and then there are things that one of my “village” members is better at than me. It is my great fortune to have these individuals around me who can help me reach a better outcome with their assistance than I would otherwise achieve on my own.
I often use various and even multiple members of my village as sounding boards for emails, memos, presentations, discussions, etc. As MasterCard says, to me this input is priceless. In fact, I recommend to my employees that they too should seek the input of their respective villages so that they can have the benefit of outside perspectives to ensure that the message they are trying to convey is clearly coming through, even to those who know nothing about it.
And to be sure, not only are outside points of view valuable to ensure clarity of one’s message, but as someone once said to me when I asked what they knew about my business, “my ignorance is my most valuable asset.” At first I thought this was a flip answer to my question, but upon reflection, this is a rather insightful and accurate statement. It is, in fact, an outsider’s ignorance that allows them to ask questions without being unduly influenced or constrained by existing paradigms and allows for comments/feedback that might not be given by someone more “in the know.” In truth, I have even taken to hiring from outside the industry to reap the benefits of this blissful ignorance!
So, to make the best of your career, be certain to use your village as much as possible. These family members, friends, colleagues and co-workers will provide a breadth of input and insight, allowing you to achieve tremendous results in all that you do. And don’t forget that as much as you have others in your village, you too are part of others’ villages.
Nina nets it out: Never discount the value of seeking input from others. I can say rather confidently that without the input of others in my village, I would not likely be where I am today. Please share any of your own stories of how your village helps to enable your success.