Tag Archives: Understanding Your Role

The Team Player: Understanding Your Role Part II

17 Nov

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!




The Team Player: Understanding Your Role Part I

31 Oct

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!

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