You’re Not a Team Player!!!!!

As usual, it’s been a while since I have posted. It has been a crazy year and as much as I Image result for teamworkthink about blogging, I rarely have the time to sit down and do it. I want to change that. I have a lot to say and a lot that I think others need to hear and I am going to try to do better. Once a month at least is my new goal. We’ll see how it goes. Keep me honest if I am slipping.

Let’s start out with a life update. I still live in Texas (and love it). I bought a horse (Cowboy); I am in the process of trying to sell a horse (Lilo). Jasmine is now retired from show life and living the horsey dream life in the Texas Hill Country (along with her son Zeke). I am about 11 months into my new job (it was a year on Friday that I left my last one) and I could not be happier. I feel like I found my fit. That is a lot of what I want to talk about in the next couple blogs. Finding your people, not staying with the known when it isn’t working, being yourself. They are topics I have hit on before, but I want to go back to them with a year’s worth of wisdom and growth.

I am not sure I ever fully said on here what went on at my previous job, particularly the ending. In some ways the end came from a change in management (I predicted my time there was ending when leadership changed about 2 years before I left), in other ways it had been coming from the day I started there (in 2003). It might never have been the best fit for me, but that will be the next post. Today I want to try not to get too squirreled and focus on team work. This has been on my heart and mind a lot lately and I feel like I ‘get it’ in a way I never did before.

Image result for deserted islandOver and over in my life I have been accused of not being a team player. And I bought into that notion. It must be me. I must be messed up or wrong because I didn’t enjoy team projects or got frustrated with team members at work. Maybe it is my introversion, maybe it is my New York attitude. I looked to see what others saw. I tried to believe the blame being put on me, but at the same time I knew what I craved more than anything was a team work environment. I hated the fact that I was typically isolated out on an island by my former company. Looking back, I can see part of that was a result of their inability to run a healthy virtual company. Part of it was also intentionally done to contain me so that others would not have to step up from their mediocrity. By making me the problem, other problems could be ignored. I was an easy scapegoat because I would internalize their criticism. Shame on me!

It wasn’t until I joined my current organization that I realized; you can’t be a team player if you aren’t part of a team. That the flaw all along hadn’t been me, it was that I wasn’t working in a team-based environment and had no real team mates!!!!

I wish I knew what the secret is with the firm I am with now, because it would be great to share with other companies that are struggling, but I never feel like a remote employee, even though I am. I remember previously that when I would see colleagues once or twice a year at town hall meetings or holiday events, I would feel like I was meeting strangers. That is never the case with my current firm. There is no sense of being less a part of the family than those in the home office, there is no sense of being a stranger. It is odd and wonderful all at once.

I do think part of the magic is technology. We use Slack, A LOT!!!! There are very few emails between team members (maybe 10 this year total, for things clients don’t need to be cc’d on). We interact constantly and I know that helps. It feels like we are together even though we aren’t.

Another factor is our deeply-ingrained commitment to the client. On paper most of us are assigned to different projects, but when one team member has a challenge or a client has a need everyone immediately piles on to help. It doesn’t matter if it is the founder, the president, someone you have never talked to. Everyone is in this together. We succeed and fail together and while I see that in mission statements all the time, here it is life. I know every day I have a team backing me. I know if I reach out for help someone is going to have my back. And that is huge.

Knowing I have a team has been lead to major personal growth for me this year. I have learned I don’t have to do it all myself, I have learned to delegate, I have learned to trust others to do without micro managing. Do I do that all perfectly yet? Heck no! I have a lot of years of habits to undo, but I have come so far forward with this.

I have also learned how to be more vulnerable and ask for help and not feel like saying “teach me this” is the same as setting myself up as a target or seen as a failure. That risk taking has allowed me to discover skills (like programming dashboards) I never knew I would enjoy (oh heck, let’s be honest, I totally geek out on it), build better relationships with colleagues and better serve my clients. I still find myself checking people’s potential motives before I admit I am struggling, but more often than not asking for help has become a positive experience.

I learned a lot about leadership this year too. For 16 years I was a one man show (if I was lucky, I had one person I was paired with) and I had to do it all. This year I not only gained an entire organization beside me, but I am also leading a team of my own. I have always tried to shy away from formally leading a group at work (because I had been told I had the wrong personality for it, again I believed the BS). And that might still be true, because my style of leadership is not something that would work on a management org chart. I believe in a herd more than a group of followers. That we are all have a valuable voice, that we are all in it together, that I would never ask someone to do something I won’t do. But just like I watch in the pasture, every herd has to have that alpha when something is going wrong and I have embraced that role. It is my job to protect my team, to make sure they have what they need, that we are being the most successful we can. But our outcome is not because of me. Good, bad or otherwise it is because of us. Humility has never been my challenge, I easily bought into my whole life all the negative people put on me, but not feeling that failure was my fault has been. I have learned this year, I think, to own the right amount of my responsibility while also ensuring others own theirs too.

Image result for horse herd appaloosa

It is so cliché to say “Team work makes the dream work” but I have to say I am living my professional dream and it really is because I found my team, my herd, my tribe. I found people who are in it for the we not the me. I found people who don’t start from their own benefit but the benefit of the whole. And that is a damn cool place to be!!!!!

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