The Law of Countability

Teammates Must Be Able to Count on Each Other When It Counts




The significance of the Law of Countability is most obvious when the risks are great -- during mountain climbing, or in race car driving, or in an Olympic relay race. But there are less tense circumstances in which the law is seen at work. A business owner depends on their sales people to sell a certain amount of products or services each month. A gym member counts on the gym owner to keep the exercise equipment clean and in working order. The daily commuter has to know that the bus system will run on time. If there is a failure in countability, then the company doesn’t meet payroll, the gym member doesn’t stay fit, and the commuter doesn’t get to work on time. In the same way, teammates must be able to rely on each other when it’s important. (Teammate countability can be improved for Minneapolis businesses and businesses elsewhere through our coaching and training.)

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"Individual commitment to a group effort--that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work," said professional football coach Vince Lombardi. That is the core of countability – it’s the skill and aspiration for teammates to act as one towards common targets. But countability doesn’t materialize all by itself. Nor is countability something you can expect. It has to be worked for. And countability has been developed when teammates can count on each other during easy and difficult times.

The Formula for Countability

John Maxwell, leadership and teamwork authority, has a formula for countability. It’s simple, but it has effect.

Character + Competence + Commitment + Consistency + Cohesion = Countability

When each team member adopts these five traits, the team can realize the countability that is crucial for success.

Character

"Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability," observes Patrick Lencioni, author on team management. Founded on trust, countability starts with character, because it is the basis for human relationships. If you can trust a person, you are more likely to count on him.

Said businessman and author Stephen Covey, “Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition - such as lifting weights - we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.” When you want to create a team, a good place to start is by developing character in the people who comprise the team. Take a look at the team culture the State of Minnesota desires to build in their schools.

Code of Ethics for Minnesota Teachers

Standards of Professional Conduct (1)

  • A teacher shall provide professional educational services in a nondiscriminatory manner. 

  • A teacher shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to health and safety.

  • In accordance with state and federal laws, a teacher shall disclose confidential information about individuals only when a compelling professional purpose is served or when required by law.

  • A teacher shall take reasonable disciplinary action in exercising the authority to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning.

  • A teacher shall not use professional relationships with students, parents, and colleagues to private advantage.

  • A teacher shall delegate authority for teaching responsibilities only to licensed personnel.

  • A teacher shall not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter.

  • A teacher shall not knowingly falsify or misrepresent records or facts relating to that teacher's own qualifications or to other teachers' qualifications.

  • A teacher shall not knowingly make false or malicious statements about students or colleagues.

  • A teacher shall accept a contract for a teaching position that requires licensing only if properly or provisionally licensed for that position.

What did you detect when you read through the ten standards? Did you detect that most of the standards are related to character? Minnesota’s lawmakers comprehend that students need teachers of character in order to respect them and in order to learn from them. Evangelist Billy Graham said, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”

Competence

There are people in the world who think character is all that matters. That’s not quite true. What a person does is also significant, as Scripture states (2). Character is the most significant factor, but it’s not the only factor.

If you are uncertain about that, reflect on this. If your car needed major repair, would you be more cheerful entrusting your car to a good mechanic who was a bad person or a good person who was a bad mechanic? That makes it clear, doesn’t it? Competence is important. And if the person is on the same team as you, you want that person to have competence and character.

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Commitment

When crunch time comes, you want to be able to count on your team members. That’s one of the reasons for creating a team in the first place. Many people can face tough times with more strength than one alone. Real teamwork involves solid commitment. 

Consistency

“In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry,” said Roger Staubach, NFL quarterback. He should know. Nicknamed "Captain Comeback" for his “fourth-quarter, game-winning heroics, Staubach consistently lead scoring drives which gave the [Dallas] Cowboys improbable victories. He led the Cowboys to 23 game-winning drives (15 comebacks) during the fourth quarter, with 17 of those in the final two minutes or in overtime” (3). 

Staubach’s penchant for consistency in crucial minutes applies not just to sports, but to any team in any circumstance. For example, in business, customers value consistent hours of operation, service and product quality. The consistency of those factors is produced by the team.

Cohesion

A team needs to acquire cohesion. Cohesion is the ability to stick together, even when the conditions become challenging. It’s not about teammates liking each other or being nice. It’s about dedication to the team and vision in a way that makes it possible for the team to accomplish more than one person. "No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it,” observed H.E. Luccock, Yale Divinity School Professor. Your team needs cohesion to function at its best.

 The Payoff of Trust

Trusting your team members can not only improve your company, it can save your life. Ask Cross Fitter Katrina Plyler of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She trains hard for marathons, and so expects to feel some aches and pains. One weekend, while in training, she’d done a thirteen-mile run. The next Tuesday she powered through an extensive, upper body, gym workout. She felt fine, but her trainer detected minor swelling in her arm and said he was concerned. Later that day, when the swelling increased, her trainer recommended she see a doctor. Plyler thought her trainer was overreacting, but she went to her doctor on his advice.

Says Plyler, “The doctor took one look at me and diagnosed me with rhabdomyolysis, a life-threatening condition where muscle overuse causes kidney failure.” With IV fluids to flush out the toxins, and particular care for her health over the next few days, she made a full recovery. Plyler thanks her trainer, a member of her team, for bringing the medical condition to her attention and for saving her life (4).

Being a Better Team Member

“Anytime anybody impersonates you, it’s a great compliment,” says actor Robert Wagner. Yet in teamwork, the best compliment you can obtain is trust from your teammates in a difficult time.

What do your teammates think about you? In a previous blog, I discussed catalysts and how they perform at a higher level during stressful circumstances. You may or may not be a catalyst. That’s all right. But, consider this. Do you do your part, whatever that may be, when your team’s situation requires it? Do you execute and follow through so that the team routinely expects results from you? How far along are you in developing the five qualities discussed in this chapter?

  • Is your character rock solid?

  • Is your competence at work respected by your teammates?

  • Is your commitment to the success of the team superior?

  • Do you constantly try to improve your consistency?

  • Do you contribute to the team’s cohesion? 

If you are struggling with any of these qualities, speak to a mentor or trustworthy friend for recommendations on how you can develop them in yourself.

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Being a Better Team Leader

Growing your team in the areas of countability and cohesion takes time and is not a simple process. If you are your team’s leader, apply the recommendations of William A. Cohen in The Art of the Leader to form a team that values countability.

  • Foster pride in group membership.

  • Talk your group into believing they are unsurpassed.

  • Offer group and individual praise consistently.

  • Endorse organizational mottos, names, symbols, and slogans.

  • Study and make known the history and values of the group to encourage their feelings of importance.

  • Focus on the vision.

  • Support your people in getting together outside of work (5).

Weave these actions into your communication with your team, and your team will acquire greater countability. 

1. Excerpted from chapter 9, sec.3.130, of the Minnesota Code.
2. Colossians 3:23-24.
3. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Staubach, May 8, 2019.
4. Katrina Plyler, Reader’s Digest, https://www.rd.com/culture/true-stories-trust/, May 8, 2019.
5. William A. Cohen, The Art of the Leader (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994).

The ideas in this blog post were taken from John Maxwell’s book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork.

Stephen Crawford