“There is no I in team.”
Or is there?
On one hand, I think I get it. To be an effective team member requires one to set aside personal agendas for the sake of group good. Outcomes are, hopefully, a collaboration or collection of great minds thinking together.
The best teams – whether family, work, church, or sports – have conflict. Differences of opinion, personality, approach, and ideas bring fresh perspectives for problem solving or simply seeing other options. Creativity is often born out of well-managed friction.
In other words, teams work best when we each bring our unique “I” to the table.
But in and of itself, that isn’t enough. There must be a respect for other - for different - if we are going to succeed. I must value you and your unique approach and you, me.
This reminds me of the vivid metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12:17-20. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
We don’t need a room full of eyes or ears or feet!
Recently I had opportunity to lead five others through the task of revising teaching curriculum. I threw out the general question, “How did this work last year?”, then sat back and watched the magic.
One person offered a suggestion which another built on. Someone else added a caution, helping clarify our objective and keep us on track. Three hours later we had a product far superior to anything I could have created or imagined on my own.
Different people with complementary roles, performing in sync with each other, is a beautiful thing.
And not all teams get this. I have worked with individuals who see team as an obstacle in accomplishing their personal goals. Or a spin cycle of hashing and rehashing; a time-sucking vortex that prevents progress and steals joy. Fortunately, we can learn lots from stories of how people show up and act out in groups. (If you’re interested in reading hilarious accounts, check out the Team section in Changing Course: Stories to Navigate Career and Life Transitions.)
So as I consider my teams, I want to be a part that brings life, and, by God’s grace, celebrate the unique contributions of others.
And, I can’t help thinking, “What body part am I?”
With love and gratitude,
It’s a humble blue metal bowl with a black rim.
The enamel is chipped in several places and the inside faded and stained. It’s one of my most treasured possessions.
As a preschooler, my dad’s mom invited me into her world. In the summer, I roamed the garden eating raspberries while she picked peas. We moved to the porch when her bucket brimmed with tender pods. She sat in one lawn chair and me in another with the blue bowl between us, shelling until the last pod was stripped of its juicy contents. Into the freezer went peas for the winter.
Then, new potatoes.
With our trusty bowl in hand, Grandma led me to the hills of deliciousness waiting to be harvested. “Don’t pull the whole thing out,” she’d instruct. “Just dig your hand down into the dirt around the plant and see what you can find.” Treasure! My tiny fingers followed roots to the gems at the end – little spuds.
I gently extracted them from the rich black soil, careful to heed Grandma’s warning, and dropped them into the blue bowl. How to describe that sound when the coveted vegetable plunked into the bowl? Or the sight when water swirled over the potatoes, separating dirt from food?
Last week my husband and I harvested the first crop of our new potatoes. The bowl sprang to life with rich sensory bursts as I dropped Russets in and watched our bounty whiten as water became brown and silt settled. Even the gritty feel as I swooshed my hand across the bottom to rinse the bowl took me back to Grandma’s garden.
I highly doubt that my grandmother sat down one day and said, “How can I impact Shelaine’s life for good? How can I build experiences into her that will show up when’s she’s picking her own potatoes at 52? How will I let my granddaughter get to know me? How will I get to know her?”
No, I think she simply lived her life, bringing me alongside, letting me watch, and answering my questions.
It’s a powerful mentoring method that Jesus himself used during his life on earth and leaves me asking, “Who am I sharing my life with? Who is watching how I live? Who do I have opportunity to influence simply by inviting them along? Who has questions for me?”
And, for today, who will get to eat our new potatoes?
With love and gratitude,
This has been a summer of visiting memory lane and facing monsters.
As a tween-aged child, I scored the jackpot. My only-child friend picked me to be her summer “sister” at their family cabin for two to three weeks a year.
During those three summers I had countless opportunities to learn to water ski, wind surf and swim in a lake. And for all the enjoyment and delight of water fun, a disconcerting story lurked never far from child-conscience.
The cabin sat on the shore of mighty Lake Manitoba, Canada’s 13th largest lake, known for its fishing and century-long history of Manipogo sightings. The possible existence of this serpent-like sea monster – a cousin to Scotland’s Loch Ness and BC’s Ogopogo – kept me on high alert, just in case.
A favorite activity for my friend and me involved skiing double. Her dad drove his boat one direction away from the cabin until our arms gave out and legs became jello. She and I would nod in agreement that we’d reached our journey’s end somewhere in the middle of this massive body of water and then give him the signal to stop. We would synchronize dropping our ropes and glide into the buoyancy of our life jackets until he circled back to pick us up.
Except that one day.
All went as described above until we let go of the ropes. We began our gentle descent into the darkness and just when we expected to fall back into a float, we didn’t. Our skis landed on something firm, and we found ourselves standing in the center of the lake, kilometers from any shore. We turned to each other and responded without hesitation. “Manipogo!!!!” we screamed. And then screamed some more.
No amount of reassurance that Manipogo is a myth, or explanation of variable lake-floor depths, changed our minds. We knew whose back we stood on.
I haven’t water skied since those cabin days. Until this month.
Funny how memories, like underwater creatures, can hide out of sight for decades and suddenly, while letting go of the tow rope and sinking gracefully toward shore, come flooding back. Thankfully, this time I didn’t scream wildly.
Sometime I just need my rationale self to recognize the facts and laugh at my childish interpretation. After all, lakes have varying depths and we likely landed in a shallow area. Streams flowing into the lake bring sediment that could have piled up. Vegetation can grow thick and tall under water creating a long, wide ledge. All reasonable explanations.
Or…perhaps Mani just wasn’t hungry that day.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst