Last weekend, I accompanied my son and his marching band to Indianapolis for the Bands of America Grand Nationals. I’m no stranger to marching band (having been involved in high school), but at BOA, I saw some amazing stuff. I saw kids who are probably awkward music geeks at home transformed into incredibly agile dancers and talented actors bringing a story to life without words. It was hard to believe they were high school students — I felt like I was watching a performance from a certain famous French-Canadian acrobatic company (you know which one.)
Of the 100 bands present, there was a 37 point difference between the top and bottom scores. I did not get to see all 100 bands (I mean, I love band, but I have my limits), but I saw a large number of them including all of the top 12, and something stood out to me about the bands that rose to the top.
It was clearly written on their faces. It was present in every step from the time they entered the field to the time the show reached it’s conclusion — commitment to their show, their role and each other. That is how you get a group of people to complete something so perfectly — so successfully. It is the most obvious evidence of a strong and successful team.
In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni presents a model for developing a successful team — a hierarchy of team dysfunctions, really, that can be turned over to present a hierarchy of needs. Commitment is the middle level of the hierarchy, built on the underlying functions of trust and conflict. With commitment in place, a team then rises to accountability and attention to results — that drive for feedback to continuously perfect itself that is a hallmark of the very best.
As I watched each band perform, you could see (even from third tier seats) which teams were truly engaged with their show, and which were only marching from dot to dot. This is not a judgment on any of the performers — it takes courage to put yourself in a professional football stadium and perform in front of judges and thousands of observers. Rather, it is an observation that any team — even a team of teenage musicians — needs leadership that understands and feeds the hierarchy of team needs to fully realize their potential and win.