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Create Wins for Everyone

December 27, 2018

Create Wins for Everyone

Individual commitment to a group effort… that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.

 —Vince Lombardi

In this paper, we’ll concentrate on the Christian leader’s responsibility to recognize, highlight, and augment employees’ gifts and talents in a way that cultivates unity in the workplace. Previously, we discussed how both spiritual gifts and natural talents should be used to glorify God. When everyone is using and exercising their talents and gifts at 100% capacity, the Church flourishes and is blessed. While spiritual gifts are manifested and given to us by God for the edification of the Church, I believe there can be some carryover of those illuminated gifts to impact the workplace environment. How do we get diverse workplace employees “firing on all cylinders” for the good of the organization? 
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:4)

Great leaders have the ability to “tease out” and “coach up” the best that people have to offer. They have the instincts to find and push all the right buttons for maximum performance. They also have the ability to paint a picture of hope, success, and victory. When they do, this creates a winning atmosphere for everyone involved. Leaders create wins when they can get their followers to participate fully with their unique strengths, commit to the team’s success, feel valued, and are rewarded and recognized for exceptional individual and team performance.

People in the workplace want to contribute in ways that are meaningful and significant. They want to use their strengths to make an impact on the organizations in which they work. Simply put, employees want to feel valued, and they want to win. When leaders create an environment where everyone is fully participating with their strengths (creating wins) and giving their all, the corresponding teamwork, harmony, and results will quickly follow. Let me give you a real-life example.

Coach Jim Graffam was a 27-year-old men’s basketball coach who was awarded his first head coaching job at Bonny Eagle High School in Standish, Maine. As a former outstanding athlete himself, he loved everything about sports. He thrived when he was practicing, competing, and winning. Coach Graffam had the charisma, intelligence, people skills, intensity, and knowledge of the game like no other coach I had ever met before. While he related well to his players, he also expected more from us than we thought we were capable of.

He came to our basketball team during my junior year of high school in 1978. Before Coach Graffam’s arrival, we finished with a dismal record and ended up close to last place. For many years prior, Bonny Eagle High School men’s basketball teams were considered the doormat of the league. Enter Coach Graffam. Coach was quick to assess the skills and talents of each member on the team. He was a master at putting the players in the right spots for maximum efficiency on the court. He understood that the gifts and talents of each individual were important to the overall goal of winning. Yes, Coach Graffam knew the role that each of the 12 players on the team would play and how to get the best out of us. His coaching strategy was to accentuate the dominant skill set of each of his players and then mold them into complimentary partners on a tightly knit team. That is exactly what he did.

During my junior year, we finished with a winning record. We established a reputation in the Southern-Maine area as a high-energy team that could compete with the best teams around. We weren’t yet at an elite level, but every time we went out on the court, we left everything we had on the floor. We caught Coach Graffam’s vision and were obsessed with competing and winning! 

By the time my senior year rolled around, we all knew that Coach (and we) had created something special. Over the summer, we had all committed to being the best players possible. Many of us attended multiple basketball camps and practiced every day. We spent hundreds of hours shooting baskets and honing our defensive skills. It was during this timeframe that we all began to realize that each of us had a specific role to play. Coach Graffam also let us know in no uncertain terms what he expected from each one of us. All of this led to an incredible playoff run in 1979 that will be a fond memory for the rest of my life.

As 1979 rolled around, we were one of the largest high schools in the state and participated in Class A, which was the top sports league. We finished with 18 wins my senior year and were ranked fifth in the entire state. We made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade and eventually lost to a perennial powerhouse, Rumford. We had left our mark on the basketball landscape in the state of Maine. But how did we accomplish this? 

I believe that everyone on the basketball team came to realize we had an enormous responsibility to use our gifts and talents for the betterment of the team and for the good of other people. We all had a role to play, and when we collectively gave it our all, we were able to create something unique and special. This dynamic only took place when Coach Graffam started creating wins for everyone. He focused on and magnified our strengths, established high expectations for success, minimized our deficiencies, and coached us toward a better version of our basketball selves for team success. Sound familiar?

In 2012, Coach Graffam was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

As Christian leaders, we need to be mindful of the unique gifts and talents of others and then utilize those gifts in a way that brings glory to the Lord. Prodding, encouraging, and using tough love are all tools that are at the leader’s disposal. Regardless of how one goes about “coaching up” or finding the right buttons to push, leaders strive to get maximum effort from a diverse group of workplace talent. Whether in the ministry, private, or public sectors, the end game is for your followers to be “firing on all cylinders” for the glory of the Lord!


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