This summer, we’re talking about what it means to be a team player. You can read the first and second posts, but what else matters?
Principle #2: To be an effective team player, you’ve got to know what you bring
Imagine your favorite football team drives down the field to the opponent’s fifteen yard line. It’s a tie score with 2 seconds left. Only time for a field goal. After a quick timeout, the team runs back out on the field. You’re so excited you can barely stand it, until… you look up and realize that the quarterback is standing where the kicker should be.
Well-run teams are teams where each person knows their role. In real life, the kicker does his job, everyone exchanges high-fives and goes home happy.
In other team settings, though, I’m surprised by how often people don’t know their role. They don’t know what they bring, what they’re good at. They have a vague sense that the group is important, so they keep coming, but lack a sense of purpose.
Like our scenario above, the results are usually not good. One or more of the following tends to happen:
- People who don’t know what they bring keep quiet, wondering if what they have to offer is valuable. Or, even if they know it’s valuable, they worry about whether others will agree. As a result, others who do have a sense for what they bring dominate the group and have more influence than they should. The group becomes unbalanced.
- On the other extreme, people who aren’t sure of their role can say too much. They aren’t sure where to contribute, so they contribute everywhere, talking too much and/or burning out. People start to tune them out and may even stay away from the group. Again, the group misses out on the sum total of what it should be.
Some years ago, I remember falling into the first category at a weekly staff meeting. I believed my contributions were important but not valued, so I didn’t say much. Looking back, I think my thoughts were undervalued but I wrongly excused myself and placed the blame on others. In reality, I was robbing the group of what God wanted to add through me.
Understanding our tendency to either clam up, or, dominate, in group settings, what can we do about it?
Let me make two suggestions (see next week for the second):
1. You’ve got to figure out what you bring – what your role is – on the different teams you’re on. There isn’t a formula, but there are principles. If you’re not sure what you bring:
- see what needs and opportunities exist on your team and the people you’re serving. (See 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, where Paul deeply considered who he was ministering to).
- (b) examine yourself: what gifts, desires and abilities do you have? (If you’re a Christian, you have at least 1 ‘spiritual gift’ expressly meant for building others up (see 1 Peter 4:10-11), and, many other desires and abilities).
- (c) ask others you respect for their opinion (As Proverbs 15:22 puts it, ‘in an abundance of counselors there is safety’);
- (d) try different things and see how it goes (obvious, right?!);
- (e) pray for clarity (See James 1:5: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God… and it will be given him’).
No doubt other things could be said, but, this is a good start. Here’s your homework:
- In group situations, do you tend to clam up or dominate?
- What one step could you take to gain more clarity in what you have to bring?