Several years ago, I was asked to serve as the music director for a Christian camp. Seeing an opportunity to involve several others in the team, I invited an extremely gifted young lady from my church to assist me in the task. Eagerly, she accepted the offer and the two of us met up at the camp two weeks later, ready to provide a worshipful time for a group of rowdy sixth graders.
Unfortunately, my hiring skills proved to be lacking. The agreement had been that the young lady would assist me in any capacity necessary in order to aide me in attaining the goal of a smooth worship event. She would be a team player who operated under my guided supervision.
She, however, approached the assignment with the attitude of a “team player”. She was there to “pick up the pieces” not just for me, but for everyone else involved in the functioning of each event. As heroic and self-sacrificing as this may sound at first, her failure to fully understand the part she was supposed to play within our team led to a near disaster.
It had been a particularly full afternoon and time to prepare for worship was limited. Knowing that this was our moment to shine, I grabbed my young assistant and explained, “I need you to photocopy this music for me while I go find the rest of our equipment.” With a nod of her head, she agreed and I set off to find the missing gear.
The adventure took me a good half an hour and, when I returned, I found that she was busy taking down cafeteria tables and setting up chairs. “Excellent!” I declared, fairly beaming with pride. “Where’s the music?”
“Oh, I didn’t copy that,” she replied. “They need to get this done and if I don’t help, there will be nowhere for anyone to sit!”
I quickly explained to her that, while I applauded her willingness to help, there was more to being a real team player than simply doing anything and everything that looked as if it needed to be done. There was plenty of staff on hand to deal with the seating arrangements… but there had been only one member of staff to see to the sheet music. We would now have to postpone the worship session because she had not done what I had asked. By failing to understand her individual role as a member of the team, she had actually done more harm than good.
This same situation occurs frequently enough within the realm of the workforce. You’ve probably experienced it yourself when, in the course of completing your assignment, you’ve been sidetracked by someone who isn’t completing theirs. We generally respond to this sort of situation in one of two ways. We’ll explore the first of these next week. But in the meantime, feel free to share your own experience with successful (or not so successful) teamwork in the comment box below!