When people think of Mickey Mouse, they commonly think of Walt Disney. But creating the well-known character was actually a team effort. In the early 1900s, a different character—Oswald the Lucky Rabbit—represented Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. Though created by Disney, Oswald was owned by Universal. Wanting to sever ties with the other studio, Walt Disney assembled a team of animators and composers to create a new character to be the face of Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio.
Ub Iwerk was the head of that team. After looking through several sketches, the team found the inspiration they needed; it was a sketch by Hugh Harmon of Walt Disney surrounded by mice. With the new idea in mind, the lucky rabbit was replaced by a mouse. That mouse, originally named Mortimer, was later renamed Mickey thanks to Disney’s wife, Lillian. Though Disney may be the one most associated with Mickey, the world-famous mouse known today would not exist without the entire team behind him.
Why Including Others Matters
Including others in important endeavors allows for the effective creation and implementation of lasting ideas—such as Mickey Mouse. In his famous work Meditations, John Donnes declares, “no man is an island.” Donnes’ statement teaches us that no individual is entirely self-sufficient. Everyone must rely on others to accomplish goals and overcome challenges. Human beings are inherently social creatures and interacting with others is a necessary component of a fulfilling life.
Developing meaningful relationships is particularly salient in the business world. No businessperson can survive long in the marketplace without strong relationships with coworkers, employees, employers, clients, regulators, and many others. But developing and fostering such business relationships can be challenging and difficult. By focusing on the traits below, anyone can strengthen the skills required to successfully build and lead a team.
Skills for Including Others
Inclusivity and Empathy
Oxford’s Lexico dictionary defines inclusivity as “the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.” Efforts to be inclusive create an attractive work environment to which professionals will be drawn and retained. Empathy, or understanding and connecting with others through emotions and feelings, helps organizations retain talent. Without upholding these values, global leaders risk losing valuable employees and slowing the growth potential of their organizations. Global leaders can practice inclusivity by overcoming biases and seeking to build up and empathize with those who might otherwise be marginalized. Leaders can improve empathy by listening attentively to others, asking sincere questions, and engaging in others’ lives. Inclusivity and empathy will attract and help retain the right people and keep an organization on the right path.
Being an influential leader also means knowing how to guide and develop team members. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animations Studios and expert in team building, observed, “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up.” And no one wants a good idea to go to waste, right? Collaborative coaching can turn a mediocre team into a highly functioning and trusted group. Leaders can become collaborative coaches by fostering expression and interaction in the work environment, cultivating effective and sincere communication among team members, and eliminating hierarchical barriers in the company’s structure.
Conflict is a natural element of life that results from incompatible or opposing needs, opinions, or demands; it can either be constructive or destructive to a team. The aim of conflict management is to enhance group cohesiveness, respect, and productivity in an organizational setting. Successful global leaders foster a culture that celebrates diversity of thought and experience, encourages the civil exchange of ideas, and normalizes differences of opinion. When healthy conflict escalates into hostility, leaders must be prepared to confront the issue directly and in a timely manner. Teams facing confrontation can diffuse an emotionally-charged situation by acknowledging and listening to others in search of a compromise, becoming aware of policies and conflict resolution resources that exist within an organization, and using such resources to make conflict resolution a smooth experience for everyone.
While every team may not be creating the next Mickey Mouse, global leaders can apply these principles to create great, not mediocre, teams. With this foundation, leaders can promote inclusivity and empathy, collaborative coaching, and conflict management both personally and throughout their establishment. Will the rising leaders develop their company’s next Micky Mouse or will they be satisfied with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit?
To learn more about how to reap the rewards of including others, check out the articles below.