Taking one for the team…

Today during our regular team meeting we were given a very much needed reminder: to be a team, you have to work as a team. And a critical element to being a tight, well functioning team is that team members support each other, help each other, lift each other up.

It’s very easy to forget: often, our teammates (coworkers) are like a second family to us. …More like having a bunch of siblings in the house that don’t get along and are always trying to get Mom and Dad to pay attention to them and blame wrongdoing on their siblings. And just like at home, there is the ever-present Not Me ghost.

So how do we look past those rivalries and feelings and act as a team? On paper, it’s simple: you help them out when they are struggling, you offer suggestions for improvement or correction, and in a perfect world they accept this instruction graciously, happily even, and grow and become better employees and mentors to future new team members.

I don’t live in the land of perfect – how about you?

When working with new team members I DO share all I know: I share my notes, I share my tools, I share my philosophy, all in hopes that the new guy stumbles on something that makes him think differntly about they way he does his job. And when New Guy has questions, I go out of my way to answer them, offer suggestions, and tricks I’ve learned in the years I’ve been doing this job (I’m no spring chicken, and most in my field are fresh faces straight from college). And almost always, they do take the information I offer them and grow, and become better at their jobs, and in turn offer that same advice to the next New Guy.

But then there’s Bob (you remember Bob don’t you?)

Bob isn’t a New Guy. And waaaaay back when Bob WAS a new guy, I shared my notes, shared my tools, shared my philosophy. I helped with him with issues, I showed him tricks. I corrected him when he was making mistakes.

But I am in a position now has me rethinking my own long-held philosophy that ALL people can be taught and learn and get better at their jobs. At what point is someone either incapable of learning new skills, or purposefully using you to do their job for them? Any how do you tell the difference?

As a mentor, my thoughts are:

For the first few months you are here, I don’t expect you do much of anything without a lot of questions. Every company and organization is different, and it’s going to take you at least 3 months to even begin getting the hang of how this one works.

During the 3-6 month period, I’d expect someone to begin taking initiative and handling routine items without questions or assistance, but still have lots of questions about certain procedures and policies that aren’t a daily occurance.

By 1 year, an employee should running well on their own, with feedback from management and peers as needed for tasks that aren’t their speciality, or events that occur that often. I also would expect that after a year, they could even start sharing their knowledge with new employees.

If after 3 or more years, an employee is asking the same questions over and over, or is making the same mistakes again and again, I don’t think it’s because their team members have failed them.

If you find yourself in a job that you just aren’t ‘getting’, that you struggle with every day, and consistently have incomplete and incorrect results, you should seriously evaluate whether you have chosen a field that you are suited for.

So back to my original statement: A critical element to being a tight, well functioning team is that team members support each other, help each other, lift each other up. If you can’t lift your team up and find yourself dragging them down instead, maybe it’s time to take one for team, and find something you are more suited to, where you can excel.

5 Comments

  • I love your take on this. It sounds like Bob is somebody very real that you are trying to deliver this message to. Good luck with that!

    I often speak about business culture and a concept that I call “self-healing culture.” My opinion is that a strong, close knot team will have a culture all of its own. New members are welcomed and either assimilated into the team (which often causes a further development of the teams culture) or rejected by the team. The time that this takes is a measure of the strength of the team and the culture it has built.

    Great leaders will understand the culture and work with it rather than try to change it. Part of working with it is to develop a recruitment strategy that sifts out people, no matter how good they are technically, that will disrupt the team before they are hired.

    Seems to me, that in this post, you are showing distinct signs of having a self-healing culture!

    Peter.

    Reply
    • Thanks Peter! “Bob” is the epitome of “that guy” that has been present, in some part, everywhere I have worked. He’s a very real person somewhere, and sometimes, in each of ourselves.
      I love the idea of the ‘self healing’ team culture. I really appreciate you sharing that here!

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