teamwork -George Washington style-

03.05.2008

I’ve recently found a love for reading biographies (no, I don’t have the time but I’ve made reading and writing a major priority). I have to say that it came as a surprise at first, but after thinking about it I’ve come to this conclusion; what better way to learn; from others lives, experiences and mistakes! They allow you to gather knowledge from the most respected and intelligent people who have ever lived, a glimpse into their minds if you will.

Over the last few days I’ve found myself reading His Excellency by Joseph J. Ellis. I’ve learned more from this book about George Washington’s life than I did in all of my schooling career (I don’t think I paid attention in history classes).

One of the things I’ve taken away from this book is that George was a phenomenal collaborator. He was all about teamwork, he wasn’t afraid to ask for help or get professional opinions. In fact he was very open about getting help.

The first of my examples comes just before the Revolutionary War. George had a feeling that war was imminent and that he would be called (he reluctantly accepted) to command the Continental Army. In preparation he ordered 5 books on the art of war and a tomahawk (?). George knew if the colonies were to win their independence he would need a lot of help. Throughout the eight-year war he gathered ideas and intelligence from his team of junior (yep junior) officers that presented options to the commander in chief.

The second example comes as he was preparing for the Constitutional Convention. Ellis writes,

“Washington was accustomed to leading by listening…Where he needed assistance—and he was completely comfortable requesting and receiving it—was in mastering the theoretical vocabulary that more formally educated [he had an elementary school level of education] colleagues possessed, learning the intellectual road map to reach the destination he had already decided upon.”

Teamwork is a wonderful thing. It not only allows us to get the job done but it allows us the freedom to create bigger and better ideas.

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