Playing on a team is messy business. It doesn’t take a lot for most of us to get distracted from the tasks we’ve been assigned and sidetracked into performing duties that belong to others. Unfortunately, in the process of accomplishing those tasks, we often fail at the ones which were initially assigned to us. In helping the team, we set it back and tear it down.
Sadly, far too many people view team work as one person’s effort to cover the goofs and blunders of everyone else. Team work, real team work, however, begins not with a hero complex and a desire to carry the weight of the entire project on our shoulders, but with an understanding of our part in ensuring that project’s success.
In a way, it’s a little bit like playing on a softball team. Each member has a purpose and every member is important if the team is to win or (in the case of some teams) at least lose with honor.
For a number of years, I played catcher for a coed team whose only rules were that you had to be between the ages of twelve and dead to participate. My primary purpose was to catch the ball (usually, but not always, with my glove). My secondary purpose was to back up the pitcher once the ball was in play. Occasionally, our pitcher would miss a ball. When he did, I was right behind him to scoop it up and fire it to third for the out.
Now, imagine what would have happened had I been more focused on backing up the pitcher than I was on performing my duties as a catcher. How many balls that were powered back towards home plate would have been missed? How many runs would have been scored against us simply because I wasn’t focused on doing the job which had been assigned to me?
The same thing happens in the workplace when we lose our focus and forget the part we’ve been assigned to play. If we want to succeed as a team player, we need to put first things first. That means taking the time to understand the job we were hired to do and putting in the effort to get it done right.
Now, I can hear you saying, “That’s all great and good, but there is no ‘I’ in team.” Indeed, for a team to be a success, every member needs to pull their own weight. And it doesn’t take a genius to notice that this doesn’t always happen.
So what do we do when we’re putting in all of the effort and others are slacking off? Do we gripe about the unjustness of the situation? Do we mull it over in our minds until it consumes us? Sadly, this is the course that many people do take when injustice and discord dominate the workplace. We’ll be taking a look at the dangers of this route next week, but in the meantime, feel free to share your own “team player” story in the comment box below!