Saturday, May 15, 2010

Are you a "team player"? The difference between having a job and being an indispensible asset

Results-driven team player seeks employment.  Highly effective team player.  We use these phrases so commonly in our resumes and curriculum vitae that we sometimes forget what that's really supposed to mean.

Remember Karri Strug?  Despite injury, she delivered a near-perfect gymnastics routine at the Olympics in 1996.  Quoting Wikipedia:  "The completed vault received score of 9.712, guaranteeing the Americans the gold medal.[3][5] Karolyi carried her onto the medals podium to join her team, after which she was treated at a hospital for a third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage.[3][5] Due to her injury, she was unable to compete in the individual all-around competition and event finals, despite having qualified for both.[6]"  She put her team before herself.  She put her country before herself.  Her photo belongs in the dictionary right next to the definition of team player

Now think of the value of sports, or the military.  The focal point is learning to work together to accomplish something that's bigger than you.

So what is a job?  If you answered that you get paid to do something you're skilled at, you're only partially right.  If you're a sole proprietor, maybe that's all you need to know, but most of us get paid by someone else to do something.  Why do they pay us?  Because they have a need?  Well, yes; and now you're getting warmer, but you still don't understand the critical use case -- the reason why a job is important.

Point is this::  to be a team player, your preferences and well-being is secondary to the well-being of the team.  In baseball, if there's a key player on base, athletes never step up to the plate hoping to get walked; they try to hit the ball so that someone can run home and score a point.  By stepping up to the plate at all, they're taking a risk of getting injured, and that would be a travesty -- for the team to have lost them.  The player has to have that mentality too. 

To earn a job, you have to convince an employer that everyone in the company would benefit from having you on board.  You would provide them with something they lack today.  By employing you, everyone at the company and all of their investors would benefit.  "I have skills" is only half of it.  Can you serve your company?  Are you an asset they can't do without?  If you don't show up for work on time because the snooze button on your alarm clock is far more attractive than helping everyone in the company feed their families, you're not a team player and it would be a mistake to hire you. 

If you have children, as I do, this concept is not foreign to you; you have to get up each morning to feed your family, and though it may be painful to drop off your children at daycare, as they cling to your leg and scream "Daddy, don't go!" you know that you can do a better job as a parent by going to work and earning the money that will be necessary to provide for them.  That family team commitment does not release you from your duties to your work team, it's an additional reason why you need to stay healthy, perform your assigned duties, and pick up your kids at the end of your work day to still get some family time.  Your work enables your work team to earn money.  Your earnings at the end of the day enable your family team to support each other, provide for children, and/or allow you to live comfortably during evenings and weekends.

So I ask you again, are you a team player?  Think about it.

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