What if you're part of a team?
If you aren't on a team in your work or community, you are probably part of a family group of friends. And when you interact with people for any length of time, you run into problems. People problems.
I mentioned on last week's episode that my son and I are in the throes of crunch time for the Destination Imagination competition coming up on Saturday. DI is a worldwide organization for students in all grades, elementary through college. Teams of kids choose one of seven challenges and prepare and present a solution on which they are then scored. It would be awesome if they can get through this competition and get to the next level. But, the things they learn in the process are more important than the competition.
Right now, as I write this, I don't know if they're going to bomb or excel on Saturday, I really don't. Their team is in disarray. We have both people problems and presentation problems. And I have a choice to make. We need practice time. They have problems to resolve to get to a point where their story and solution works. Then we need one more week to polish it. But, we don't have one more week. We need to crank through their presentation sketch as many times as we can today.
But, there are bigger things at stake. There are life lessons that they need to learn because of the issues the team is experiencing. I can choose to focus on the goal - the competition - and ignore the lessons we really don't have time for. Or, I can choose to focus on the life lessons. There's no real choice.
People are the most important thing. My team and what benefits their life in the long run is more important than the actual competition. I need to spend some time talking through some stories with them today. And it will take away from our practice time. But, these lessons that they learn, these experiences they have. These are the things that will live with them for life once the competition is long past. These are the reasons we do DI.
I'm going to just record what I want to tell them today. Listen in and know that something I say to them might be meaningful to you too.
I have three things to tell you today. First. You are amazing people. Every single one of you is valuable. Each of you has an important part to play on this team and the solution that you ALL came up with is better than any that one of you could come up with. Most of my life, I've spent thinking subconsciously that I could do it better on my own. Whatever "it" might be at the moment. But, that's just not true. My definition of "better" has had to be re-calibrated.
We each have our own perspectives and experiences and the more those different perspectives are included in a solution, the more interesting and unique it will be. One of the key things about creativity is that it is the connecting of ideas in a way that's unusual, new, interesting or different. If you want to expand your creativity, the fastest way to do so is to be in a diverse group of people or ideas.The reason I'm bringing it up today is that if you have moments that you believe you are not an important part of the team. And I've heard that out of at least one of your mouths this week. I'm telling you, you are. Each one of you has contributed in unique ways. Each one of you is supposed to be here. And each of you are inherently valuable.
On the flip side, you need to realize that each of the others is also inherently valuable. Each of you have different strengths, all of which are needed. So that moment when you're frustrated or think that your way or idea is better. Step back for a moment and remember that you can't do this alone. You need the others. And if you're thinking right now that so-and-so other person needs to hear this...then I'm especially talking to you. If you're each committed to respecting yourself, your own worth and the worth of the others on your team, you'll communicate and talk in a way that builds team dynamic and doesn't tear it down.
This season right now, you'll be tired and easily frustrated. That's ok. We all are. Use that as an opportunity to build each other up. You can do that. I've seen it. I watched you as a team give grace and kindness last year at this very time when I didn't have any left. All of you have a remarkable well of kindness if you choose to dip into it.
Which leads me to point number two. People are more important than product. When I was in middle school, one of my teachers divided the class into groups of four or five and gave the groups a task. With a time limit. And a competitive factor. It was something like answer as many of these questions as possible in a certain amount of time. And then he said "Go" and off we went. When we finished. my team had won. And then, my teacher told us that the real assignment was not about the task. It was about group dynamics. And because we'd won, he asked my teammates and I questions about the experience. And they said that while we might have won, I took over the team, I bossed them around. It wasn't fun and they didn't like me much at that point. I was devastated. If I had known the task was really about interpersonal dynamics, I would have focused on that. My natural inclination was to pursue a task - especially a competitive one - at the expense of everything and everyone else. That probably wasn't the best way for me to learn that lesson, because I spent the next 20 years hiding that natural leadership because of the public betrayal I experienced at a very vulnerable age.
But. I tell you this story so you'll understand that in most cases. Pursuing the goal is less important than how you get there. If you're leading a climbing group and someone panics and freezes on a ledge and the safety of the group is at stake and you need to take control, do so. Safety is more important in that moment. And there may be other moments in business and life where you need to make that choice. I want you to understand that those choices make a difference. How you treat each other on the way to a goal has eternal significance, because each of you are the most valuable things in the room. When you have a decision to make about how you respond to someone, always remember that people are the most important thing. Cody and I have it posted in our kitchen on our family values statement. That means that relationships are more important than being right, being chosen, being recognized, getting a laugh or being in charge. I am not saying that you should never assert yourself. I am saying, that as you go through life and through this DI experience, you need to understand that people are the important things.
My third point is that you're all like thoroughbred race horses. High energy and ready to run and with your own desire to be first...and that is a wonderful, fantastic thing. But, there are going to be a lot of times in your life when you racehorses need to be harnessed together to pull a wagon. When you need to function in a group. If horses are hooked together and each horse is pulling off their own direction, not only will the wagon not get where it wants to go, it's going to probably crash and people and horses will get hurt. When you're on a team, you need to function as a team and put the needs of the team over your own. This isn't an easy lesson. This is something adults struggle with. If you're working toward a common goal, then you need a team perspective. It's better for the team to use ideas from everyone. So, if you get angry if your idea isn't chosen. If you pout when your idea isn't listened to. If you get frustrated and stop the progress of the group, at some point your perspective shifted to be about yourself. And you need to shift it back away from you. Figure out a way to be engaged but able to think about your behavior at the same time. This is as much about learning to be a part of a community than anything else. There is no community without self-sacrifice, vulnerability and serving other people.
You have the privilege of being on this team with these other amazing people. You've worked really hard and I'm proud of you. You've had fun and you have had days where you were frustrated and angry. All this is life. It's an incredible journey. These people who have walked through it with you, they're your people. They're your team. You've been through a lot in the last few years and I'm sure that if you choose to do it it again, you'll go through more, learn more, grow more. But no matter what happens. Look at each other as respect and accomplishment.
I've told you three things today:
If you're listening to the podcast and not on my team. You need to understand too.
You are inherently valuable and so is everyone around you. Treat yourself and others that way. People are more important than your schedule, your to do list, your project or your agenda. You may not be on a DI team, but you're likely in a family, social or work group. If so, know that community is of supreme value and while our culture rewards self-reliance, community is an inborn need of our hearts. There is no real community without self-sacrifice, vulnerability and serving others.
Be aware, I'm talking to some high achieving kids today, so this advice is for them. While some things might apply to everyone, like people are the most important thing, other things I've said may not apply to you. Like putting group needs first. That taken to an extreme is a problem too. So, your mileage may vary, but I do want you to see your own thoughts and actions and other people today through the lens of knowing that each of you is of immeasurable value.
The art this week is symbolic of the seven kids on my DI team, and also of you. Each of us are gemstones. Each is multi-faceted. You are beautiful and valuable. Having all the different stones in different colors, which reflect light differently, this makes our world more beautiful and interesting than if we were all the same. This is pretty obvious. But, our actions often don't reflect that belief. Remember when you look at the people in your world, ALL of the people in your world. They're all gems.
We'll have a pizza party wrap up when the season's over with our team. Our version of an awards banquet. We'll present the sketch to teachers or anyone interested in seeing it one more time and we'll make a fuss over the kids and celebrate the year. I'll present the kids with the certificate from DI, a collectors pin from their challenge this year. I'm going to bring this original in and ask them what they see in it and how it applies to them. And will give them a print as well.