Working with Others to Succeed
Thank you, BC Voices, indeed, how can I keep from singing? How can any of us keep from signing when we know the words to the song, the song of redeeming love. Thank you to Brother Decker, Brother Santos, your music gives me courage this morning. Brothers and sisters, I'm grateful to join you this morning. Grateful for being a brother with you, grateful for the opportunity over the last week to join in sustaining a new president of the Church, his counselors, and the Twelve. I’m grateful that you’re here today!
I recognize that this represents an investment and I hope that as you come with that investment I hope and pray that you’ll be blessed. I’m impressed to see this symbol of your readiness to learn, these notebooks, journals, to record impressions and thoughts. My hope is that some of the things that we discuss today are not worth writing down word for word but that they prompt thinking in your minds, feelings in your hearts of how you may continue because you are here at LDS Business College that distinguishes it for many business colleges in the world doesn’t it?
Each of you has reasons—perhaps many reasons—for coming here to school. You’re planning for careers, you might need a credential, you want to develop your skills, you want a college experience, some of you might even be here because your parents insisted. Well, whatever the reason, you are here, something is happening through all of it.
You are learning from and working with the people here—faculty, staff, other students, and it is this thing that happens that I want to visit about today. Apple founder Steve Jobs said: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people. As we listened to the choir this morning, it reminded me of Elder Holland teaching that “every voice in the Heavenly choir is needed, whatever our part. Now, although I do work in music and cultural arts, growing up I always wanted to be an athlete maybe like some of you, and it was simply height, speed, and skill that kept me from a career. I’d like to tell a little story.
Steph Curry, star player for the Golden State Warriors, sent a text to Kevin Durrant, trying to recruit him to play with them. It said, “If you win MVP or I win MVP, it doesn’t matter. We’re trying to win championships. And if you do win, I’ll be in the front row clapping for you at the press conference.” Durrant join the team, the team went to the championship, and they did it by passing to each other and helping each other in a historically great way. Each member of the team found it easier to shoot, easier to defend, and ultimately easy to win because they lifted and help each other.
Well, I am not aware of any courses that are focused specifically on the subject of working together; however, you and I will spend much of our lives experiencing and experimenting with it. It happens in our families, with colleagues and collaborators, and it’s critical to our individual and collective success. All of us have and will work with others—and we want to do it successfully. So what does that mean?
Think about stories you already know—Alma and Amulek, the sons of Mosiah working together to bring people to Christ, Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, Sarah Granger Kimball, and other women forming the Relief Society and building the city of Nauvoo; just last week we heard President Nelson remind us that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve would work very close together to move forward in the Lord’s work. The most important, the greatest achievements in the world that we can be part of are not individual, but collective experiences.
In my own college experience, I was involved in a lot of group projects—and you might be also. You might find yourself in the group and all the work falls to you…or you might not know what to do, and wait until someone else brings forward some ideas…or you’re a person that finds that the ideas in the group are so different that it’s difficult to come to an agreement… Whatever your experience is, learning to work together presents a challenge and a huge opportunity.
Have you ever been involved in really successful groups? Projects where everyone seemed to be involved and energized, everyone seems to "own" the project, and everyone shares in the sweet taste of success? Your experience with successful group work may have happened in class, or it may have happened at work, in your family, ward, stakes or in your missions.
What makes these experiences successful? As part of my academic research, I studied how faculty members work together—across many disciplines—and how those working relationships affect productivity. Research across many industries points to a pattern: The way we work with others affects our individual and group productivity.
Now that might not be surprising, but I hope as we discuss a few ideas you will identify some skills and perspectives that you can develop and adopt as you become more and more the leader our Heavenly Father wants you to be.
So now, think of an example of someone that you love to work with, someone you would give your highest ranking to on LinkedIn. What do they do? What are they like? How would you describe your interactions with them?
One day, as was a young faculty member at BYU, I heard a knock on my office door. I opened it, and there stood a member of the Philosophy department. He asked if he could come visit my class, as he was interested in how I approached dance classes. After the class, he spent several minutes explaining in detail what he had observed and appreciated about the class, and how much he had enjoyed it—and learned from it.
So how do you think I felt? I’ll tell you. I was motivated. I was motivated to learn more about what I was doing and how I could do better. I realized from what he said that I could dig much more deeply into my own work, and I wanted to work harder. I also wanted to work with him. We created projects together, involving students and faculty members from many disciplines. I couldn’t have done any of these projects alone, and he couldn’t have done them alone, either.
In my research, I have asked people to describe others who are great to work with. There are some common answers, regardless of industry or discipline.
- These people care about others and their success, and they find ways to show it.
- They expand others’ opportunities, perspectives, relationships.
- They are collaborative; they are interested in sharing the load and in learning from what others can share with them.
- They have a vision for and an investment in the future.
One professor shared with me a story of a time he was discouraged. He was feeling the pressure to successfully publish his scholarly work as he tried to earn tenure at his university. A colleague reached out, was interested in him, and helped him succeed. This is the way he described it:
"I was at a very low point… I didn't have a book contract… I was ready to throw in the towel. Then a colleague asked, "How are things going?" I told her some of my doubts and that I was ready to sort of give up. She met with me over the course of a couple of weeks where we talked out my doubts, she pushed me to send some stuff out…and I got a contract. I didn't ask for this, and it basically was a lifesaver."
Here's how some others described people they enjoy working with:
- They are willing to listen to me.
- They notice when I'm having a bad day, and really want to help.
- They appreciate the work that each person tries to put in every day.
- They support my work by helping me connect with people.
- They have a stake in the group’s success.
If these sound familiar to you, it's not surprising. We often use these behaviors as markers of people who are just nice. But don't be fooled – these behaviors are very very powerful. Why do you think it is that when the Savior was asked which of all the commandments are the greatest, he replied "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…and the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:39)?
There must be something so powerful associated with the behaviors with loving God and showing that love by loving our neighbors that these are the great commandments. They encompass all the other commandments, and they give expression to all gifts. These commandments help us become the people God wants us to be, and do the things He wants us to do.
So, as you consider people you love to work with, how do they affect you? How do they affect your work? Do they energize you? Help motivate you? Help you see new ways through and around your problems? The answer is certainly yes. They help us do better, and they help us want to do better. Here's what it sounds like as people describe their experiences:
"I'm willing to bend over backwards to do anything… Because she is paying attention to what's going on in my life. I'm not just on an island doing my own thing, but we’re working together toward our goals.
"Having others show support for your work, know what you do, what you're working on, that really makes you feel like you're part of some kind of collective enterprise."
"You – in a sense – positively pressure each other and it's less likely that things fall through the cracks."
Interestingly enough, while supportive partners and coworkers see good in each other more often than not, they don't avoid areas that need improvement. They give good, helpful advice and even criticism when things need to be changed. But, they give it from a perspective of caring for your success. The One who loves us most desires not only to see us improve but to become people who can be in His presence. He wants to cleanse us and make us perfect. I’ve been blessed to work with people who have loved me and helped me see where I can improve, which is a characteristic of the Savior: "…Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth.” (Hebrews 12:6)
Group efforts become more efficient and synergistic as members love and listen to each other, help each other become better, and carry responsibility for group success.
Each member of a group comes with different skills, perspectives, and gifts. We understand this concept from the teachings of the Apostle Paul, who taught: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord…to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit, To another faith…to another the gifts of healing, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy…” and other gifts. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit…For the body is not one member, but many…the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee.” (1 Corinthians 12: 4-21)
When everyone works together, pulls for one another, individual gifts can save time and effort for the whole group.
In my daughter’s high school career, she was finding it challenging to comprehend advanced math. She would spend hours trying to understand and work through her assignments. Then, a single phone call and a short conversation with her aunt, a high school physics teacher, helped her both comprehend the problems she was struggling with, and approach other problems with greater capacity and better understanding. So, 20 minutes of effort by one person saved hours of someone else’s time. When this principle is applied across a whole group, imagine how effective it can be. We need the skills and gifts of many to solve problems worth solving.
One person I visited with described it this way: "we are going to get farther by opening our arms than by sharpening our elbows." This statement reminded me of the experience I've had as a part of the leadership of the Nauvoo pageant. Each week during the month of July a group of about 120 members of the church –individuals and families, old and young – come to participate. They don't come for a theatrical experience so much as they come for a service and missionary experience. Over the years, we've learned that group success hinges on people caring for each other and helping one another. We’ve had to have people work together as saints—it wasn’t enough to act, or to pretend to be saints. As part of the experience, participants are taught a couple of dances. The instruction sounds something like this:
"Now friends, as you perform the steps you’ve been taught, chances are high that at some point someone will step in the place you think you're supposed to be. At that moment, you have a great opportunity. You’ll be tempted to think that someone is standing in your place, that they are keeping you from doing what you’re supposed to do. Instead, think about how can you help them, and how can you adjust your part so we work well together? No one in the audience will know if you are standing in the wrong spot…but they will certainly feel and understand if the people working together on stage are doing it in a harmonious way. You see, more important than sharing a dance is sharing how living the gospel and following the Savior helps us work and live together in love.” And that’s the story of Nauvoo, and that’s the story of true saints everywhere, isn’t it? As you continue your schooling, and pursue careers in various fields, the group work will not stop – in fact, it will intensify. You have an opportunity now to develop skills and perspectives that will influence the culture of every group you are part of – your family, your coworkers, your wards, and stakes.
Now, when we talk of culture in an organization, we are really trying to find ways to describe the unwritten rules, how we interact with each other, the processes that are not part of published processes.
Now, I've worked for an organization that had a very challenging culture. It was low in trust and high in blame. Rules had been implemented that on the one hand, were created to make clear how work was to be done; however, the unintended consequence of these rules was that it was also clear who was to be blamed when things went wrong. In practice, staff members regularly sent emails to large groups of people pointing out the faults of others. They had conversations where they pointed the blame for mistakes at others. Staff members on formal meetings were certainty civil, but back-channel conversations were often toxic, filled with gossip, backbiting, and blame.
A new manager was appointed. And these are the messages he shared often, publicly and privately:
- Nothing is broken here.
- We have everything we need to succeed.
- We need your gifts.
- We are here to learn together.
These are pretty encouraging messages, aren't they? And his behaviors matched the message. He was intensely curious, interested in what staff members were thinking and doing. And because of his interest, staff members wanted to share ideas and efforts with him. His example encouraged others to practice some of the same behaviors. Staff members began talking about how great it was to work together. And people from other areas began to ask if there were any opportunities to join this group. It was a happy time, and it was a very productive time.
This story really happened. Now, it didn't change the culture of the whole organization, but it did change the culture of a large part of the department, those who trusted in the possibility and vision of really working together. That department was able to make contributions that affected the whole organization.
So let’s review some key attributes and behaviors that you can cultivate while you're here preparing for your future success. Remember, these are things you've already considered because you have observed them in others that you appreciate working with.
- Care about others and their success. You do this by asking questions and being interested, by showing compassion and appreciation. You give trust easily.
- You expand others’ perspectives and opportunities. You do this by sharing what you know, whether you have information that might be helpful, or you have relationships that you could build for others.
- You are collaborative. You believe that others have something of value to contribute to your success, and you are willing to contribute to theirs.
- You include others, both by inviting them to participate and offering to help.
- You are oriented toward the future. You engage in discussion and research to help create a vision for the future, and you invest your time and talent in creating it.
Now it's a little bit of a downer to share the alternative behaviors; you know them as well as I do. They are ordinary ways of working: selfishness, criticism, gossip, blaming—all the things that make work less enjoyable, isolate group members, and fail to get the very best work.
On the other hand, positive behaviors and attributes enhance both individual and group productivity, cultivate unity and community, and create a culture where everyone feels like they belong and they want to contribute.
What would our families, our classrooms, our companies, our communities be like if we are successful in learning and practicing these things?
The most successful example I can think of came a long time ago. The people of Enoch listened to and received the two great commandments, and all other teachings of the Lord, through their prophet. And they were productive, so productive that poverty was unknown. So productive that enemies couldn’t prevail against them, and they were called Zion "because they were of one heart and one mind." (Moses 7:20) And as we remember, the whole city was taken up.
Here’s another example: After the Savior visited the descendants of Lehi and established His church, the people experienced similar success: "and there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people." (Fourth Nephi 1:15)
That success lasted nearly four centuries. What a culture!
As you go through life, not everyone you work with will see and understand the importance of these ideas; but when you can find and work with others who see things the same way, group work will be joyful as group members learn, grow, and create together. When you choose to work in this way, you also have the opportunity to invite others to do it with you.
My brothers and sisters, my friends. I have a testimony of this promise – that by following the two great commandments, loving and following God, and loving and caring for our neighbors wherever they may be – we will prepare for and experience now the blessings that are promised to the faithful. The blessings of the gospel are practical. They help us find success –the kind of success that ultimately makes us happy—the kind that makes us like Heavenly Father, which is why we came to earth.
I join with you in celebrating the opportunities to learn and grow together as you work here at LDS Business College. Business can mean a lot of things—it can be aggressive and self-interested, it can indicate buying and selling, it can mean being part of exciting, accelerating world of technology, innovation, and enterprise. A business college can prepare you for all these things and more. But when you put the words Latter-day Saint before business college, it implies that the way business is done here has very specific meaning to be done in the Lord’s way—in love. May the Lord continue to bless each of us as we follow Him, His living prophets, and as we strive to work in every setting to become like Him is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Raymond Robinson has served as director of the Music and Cultural Arts Division of the Church’s Priesthood and Family Department since 2010. Before his appointment, he led the dance department at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He earned continuing status in the dance department at BYU and has held visiting posts at Michigan State University and The University of Michigan.
He graduated from BYU with a BA in public relations, the University of Utah with an MFA in modern dance, and Michigan State University with a Ph.D. in higher, adult and lifelong education.
He served as a full-time missionary in the Alaska Anchorage Mission and has served as a stake high councilor, elders quorum president, bishop’s counselor and choir director.
Raymond is married to Julie Wilson, and they have seven children.