Learning to play well with others

This is a reprint of Susan Sherbert’s business humor column from Caypen Magazine

Business Humor Column by Susan SherbertA strong competitive edge starts by playing well with others.

This month’s Caypen Magazine is all about collaboration, and to me, that is an easy subject. Why? Because collaboration is the first real lesson we learn in life. As an infant, we have so much to learn about ourselves, about our own bodies, that we don’t have time to think about anyone else. We live in a world totally on our own. Feed me, change me, leave me alone I’m sleeping. The whole world revolves around us and we are the center of the universe. But eventually we gain enough knowledge to realize that we can’t do this all on our own.

We need help. So the obvious solution is to demand that everyone around us does what we want, when we want it. That only lasts so long because soon we realize that other people are a pain in the butt. They have wants and needs of their own, and that means sometimes our demands have to wait. But it’s not fair. I want to go first, be the center of attention, and to have all of the toys for myself.

This is about the time our parents decide that we are old enough to start learning a few things, so they begin their life’s purpose and start to teach us stuff. And the very first lesson we are taught is how to share. Share and play nice. To me, that is the universal lesson that children are taught by their parents because it builds a strong foundation that will support us for the rest of our lives.

Collaboration, sharing, and playing nice is one of the first lessons we learn, but unfortunately, it is also one of the first lessons that we forget. As soon as someone has better clothes, better toys, or even better ideas than us, we get mad, or even scared, and decide we no longer want to play. One of two things then happen; either we pack up and run and hide. Or we start building a plan so we can come back and defeat the enemy. What we forget is that there is a third choice and that it to play nice and share. Learn to collaborate and work together as a team.

Let me apply this lesson to the business world. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen networking meetings where people defend their territory and fight to keep similar professions out of the group.  Go away. This is my turf and I’m not sharing it. The results are rarely good. On the other hand, I have also seen many times where two people with similar occupations, decide to collaborate, join forces and figure out a way to work it out. Almost every single time, they end up building a stronger business. Two perfect examples. One: simply look at any street or mall with a row of fast food places. The food industry does an excellent job of learning to play nice. They know that you get better results if you work together, because the power of collaboration creates an amazing amount of positive energy for everyone in the group.

The second example is a story about the Knott’s Berry Farm family. When Disneyland came to town they naturally thought they were doomed. That might be what you would expect, but the story I heard was that the day Disneyland opened the Knott family was dreading going to their park that day. They thought it would be a true ghost town. But when they pulled up to the property, it was busier than they had ever seen it. Apparently people who couldn’t get into Disneyland, decided to go to Knott’s Berry Farm instead. Now I don’t know if that is a true story or not, but there must be some truth to it because some fifty years later, both amusement parks are still in business.

So the moral of this story is that collaboration is a powerful force. Learning to share and play nice truly does provide a strong foundation that can lead to amazing things – and once again, that means that your parents were right!

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Did you read Susan favorite lesson about finding the common bond ?

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