“Team wins championship!” says Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UCSB, Dr. Michael Young.  He’s a big believer and practices that ideology. It’s also something I try to practice.  There have been some work projects I would have loved to be involved in significantly, but there are other colleagues who are better fit because of their expertise and experience and that I’m also working on some other projects.

I have come to realize that even as someone who may not be involved in these projects, I am part of a team and we are all in this together.  Using team sports as an analogy, sometimes we are on the starting unit and sometimes we will come off the bench but regardless, we could contribute in several ways:

  • Be ready to “sub(stitute)” when called upon.  Your time maybe when the ball is tipped or maybe late in the  first quarter, fourth quarter or anytime in between.  Have the mentality of willingness to accept any responsibility given to you and be ready to perform anytime.
  • Provide moral support.  I love seeing bench players engaged while they are not on the court and how happy they get when their teammates do things well on the court. I also love players who provide encouragement when their teammates are not performing so well.  Providing moral support also means doing the “small things”. It could be that one encouraging email to a co-worker or offering to take on a task others may not have time for. I think this is even more important as a leader. I remember my former department director moving papers and other materials from a cubicle to help out with one of my colleague’s move to another office. She was a busy person and while she didn’t do these “small tasks” of cleaning cubicles often, it showed me and my colleagues she was willing to do what was needed to be done.
  • Provide feedback when appropriate. Players sitting on the bench have different perspectives than players who are on the court.  Offer feedback when appropriate towards the goal of improving the team performance.
  • Learn for future projects. While you may not be involved in this current game (project),  learn for future projects when you will be called upon to lead.  I think time is a very rare commodity when it comes to learning, so when I have “down times”, I use them to learn on the side like reading materials related to projects on our department.
  • Develop and adopt “team first” mentality. I admit that in the past, the source of frustration for me when not involved with major projects was ego.  I like being part of the action and I want to be involved in the decision making process. However, what I’ve come to realize is when I have the “team first” mentality, I become more positive and I am more productive and effective in my job.
  • Eliminate “he/she should” and change to “I could” mentality.  I think we can all play the role of “Monday morning quarterbacks” and thinking we could do things better. When you catch yourself criticizing the performance of others like “He should be more communicative”, change it to “I could be more communicative.” By shifting our attitude to what and how we can contribute and how can improve ourselves instead of focusing on the shortcomings of others, we can add value to our teams.

According to an African proverb,  “If you want to go fast, do it alone. If you want to go far, go together.” From experience, I think this is a very wise idea to practice.

Image credit: http://blogordietryin.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/progress-blog-or-die-tryin-group-or-team/