Common Goals Bring Together Uncommon People

That was what my old teacher John Durand told me once while we were hiking through Yosemite National Park.

It crystallizes why management / leadership is so interesting: how do you bring together a bunch of different people and unite them around common objectives?

But life’s most beautiful moments don’t always happen in formal business. Yesterday, for example, I decended on In-n-Out Burger in Daly City, a town just south of San Francisco. I can safely say I haven’t been in a place as diverse since London’s Heathrow Airport (which is probably the most diverse location in the world).

In-n-Out was filled with old grandmas and babies, black skin and white skin (and everything in-between), tall and short, grotesquely obese and anorexic. English was just one of several languages being spoken. Rich businessmen waited in the ketchup line behind gangstas.

The common goal for all these people was the perfect burger (preferably “animal style,” with fries and a vanilla milkshake on the side). So long as you kept this in mind, you couldn’t care less what the person next to you looked like.

I think back to this idea anytime I’m trying to lead people who seem close to sparring. Articulate the common goals, and people tend to rally together. Sometimes it can be as simple as, “Look, we’re all trying to get out of here as quickly as possible, so let’s work together.” Or: “Let’s not forget our interests are fundamentally aligned. You win, I win, you lose, I lose.”

Good leaders, it seems to me, assemble a stunningly diverse team, and then work hard to promote commonalities.

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