The “One Thing” That Can Unleash Your Team’s Potential

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If you want to get the most out of your team, start by making sure each one knows one thing.

Do you remember the scene in City Slickers when Curly (Jack Palance) explained the secret of life to Mitch (Billy Crystal)?

CURLY: Do you know what the secret of life is?

MITCH: No, what?

CURLY: This.

MITCH: Your finger?

CURLY: One thing. Just one thing.

The “one thing” was different for each person. The key was to find out what your own “one thing” is.

And to maximize their contributions to your team, each person you lead must also discover their “one thing”.

This refers to the unique purpose, or distinctive value they bring to the organization. Once they discover this it can unleash tremendous momentum.

I first learned the power of this when I joined the ministry that eventually became The Leadership Centre Willow Creek Canada in 1997. I had been hired in a rather vaguely defined role of “Marketing Director”, and immediately began to oversee the existing projects such as catalogues, flyers and brochures.

I dutifully kept these projects rolling along, but I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that I wasn’t yet offering my best.

One day I purposed to sit in our call centre and force myself to answer the question, “What is my unique contribution to this ministry?”

And then it hit me. As each call was answered, I realized that those calls were generated by the marketing materials I sent out.

And then I understood my “one thing”: I made the phones ring.

I wasn’t there to produce catalogues, to design flyers, or to generate brochures.

I was there to make the phone ring. That was my one thing.

And being able to articulate this changed everything. Ever since I have made it a priority to help those on my teams to understand their one thing.

Helping your team discover their unique contribution to your organization, their one thing, generates immediate momentum by;

  1. Keeping them focused on the highest priorities,
  2. Preventing them from becoming distracted by random activities,
  3. Enabling them to self-identify projects to help them accomplish their “one thing”.

So if your leadership gut is telling you that your team isn’t firing on all cylinders, start by making sure each one can articulate their distinct contribution to the organization.

The “one thing”.

Can you articulate your own “one thing”?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow & Olive and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

One comment

  1. I appreciate the feedback Sridhar. Without a clear purpose people on the team might carry out their assignments, but they’ll never achieve their highest levels of contribution.

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