Necessary for great teamwork: humility like U2

Inc. has a nice article about humility at work. It got me thinking about great teams and great teamwork.

You may not like them, but U2 will go down as one of the great rock groups by just about every measurement: hits, sold-out tours, historic performances … and staying power. Most bands disintegrate into ego issues after two or three albums.

U2, great teamwork for 40+ years
By Denis Costa – https://www.flickr.com/photos/denis5000/28826829968/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77269719

Not U2. Consider this: U2 released two greatest hits collections when they turned 20, one for the 80s and one for the 90s. Both had a second disc of b-sides, many of which even casual fans would remember. They continued to have hits after those greatest hits … and they are now 20 years past their 20th anniversary.

They are a team. I once read Bono say that he was the heart, guitarist the Edge was the brain, and Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton (the rhythm section) were the hands and feet.

How would it feel to be called the feet when the guy next to you “gets” to be the heart? That is a breathtaking thing to say out loud about your teammates … unless you approach each other with humility. Then, it’s great teamwork.

I once read Bono say that he was the heart, the Edge was the brain, and Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton were the hands and feet. That is a breathtaking thing to say out loud about your teammates.

The imagery of the quote is not surprising. U2 at its best echoes biblical language (e.g., see “Until the End of the World”–is it a love song, or Jesus and Judas in the garden?). Bono was thinking about teamwork similar to how Paul discusses the Church as the Body of Christ.

In short: Christians are part of one body, with Christ as the head. A hand needs to be a hand, not a foot. The body needs hands. And noses. And, in fact, weaker parts. The body needs all its parts–and when one part suffers, all suffer.

That is an image of humility in a team. Some may have more public roles with more honor. But they need the other team members. The team is at its best when each member owns its role and each member recognizes that they need the others owning their roles to be successful.

If you are reading this hoping to get great teamwork out of your group, please note: An outside facilitator like myself can help. But you need to think through his or her level of humility as well. The superstar speaker who inspires you? Wonderful. But did he listen? Did he fade into the background so your team can have the conversation they need to have?

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