How Being a Strong Team Member Builds Leadership Skills

In 2003, I volunteered to work in a Catholic orphanage in Peru. Our team of motivated volunteers were eager to help. We were the second group of organized volunteers from the USA to go to the mission. The organization of the grass roots effort was somewhat messy but extremely enthusiastic and well-intended. The Priest there asked for donations to plant a tree. The volunteer group was appalled, we knew best, people needed medicine and clothes. We wanted our money to make a difference. We’d flown over here to help. We didn’t always have access to Padre Miguel. He was busy overseeing medical facilities, orphanages, job training efforts and putting out fires. People in poverty have issues with drugs, sickness, broken families and crime.

When I finally got a few minutes with him, I asked, “Padre Miguel, why do you want us to plant a tree when there’s so much need here?” He replied, “the children here in Pachacutec have never seen a tree. There’s no nature here. I want them to have the experience of seeing something green.pachacutec

I realized from this experience that by embracing your role and executing in the best way you know how you are serving the vision and the mission. I realized that leaders don’t always have the luxury to explain to every person why each request is made. When I am in a support role today, I do the best I can with what I am asked to do realizing that the solid execution of my work is an integral part of the whole.

If, over time, that trust is broken, we each have the capacity to decide whether or not we want to continue. If you decide that your work is meaningless, please make the decision to find an organization that will value your contribution where you are aligned with the vision and the mission.13 years later after my trip, I can see that Coprodeli is flourishing and growing. The organization has evolved greatly from where it was when I was there

  • Perhaps the money we provided to plant a tree provided hope and inspiration to carry on?tree-oak
  • Perhaps the feedback we provided as the second group of volunteers in a grass-roots effort helped to create more structure?
  • Perhaps the optimism and dedication of volunteers gave the families hope?
  • Perhaps by contributing where we didn’t understand how we were helping, we somehow helped move the organization forward?

I believe the work we performed did help.  It’s evidenced in the growth, the expansion and the enhanced infrastructure of the organization we visited so long ago.

 

What do you think about Millennials?

 

This sometimes leading question can create a heated debate and lots of negative observations about this generation. Some of the things I’ve heard is “they’re spoiled, they are entitled, they have no work ethic, they need constant positive acknowledgement.” Those comments make me smile. Close your eyes and think about it. What generation couldn’t say that about the one that succeeds them? I guess these complaints mean that those that fall into Generation X and Baby Boomers are now officially old. BIG SMILE. The question is also U.S. Centric. Young people that fall into this age group are very different globally and, of course, stereotypes are never all-encompassing and are almost never fact-based.

When putting a team together especially in a situation where timeframes are tight, demands are high and failure is not an option, assembling the right team is a critical success factor. Some of the team members are at the company we’re working with already, some might be on our staff, some might be offshore and some may need to be recruited for a specific assignment. There will likely be several vendors. This complex, matrixed team will no doubt be very diverse consisting of several cultures, personal expectations, age groups and physical abilities. How do you align them to draw the best performance from each one individually, convince them to work as a team, while they are all so inherently different?

Communication is a high impact, low effort, low cost way to align the team. Unfortunately many of us are guilty of assuming that communication has taken place. We all speak, we all write, we understand what we mean. What’s wrong with everyone else? Why can’t they understand? Could it be because they’re young, they’re old, they’re not from here, or we don’t understand their education?team puzzle

When building a diverse team we’ll ask:

  • What can we count on you for?
  • Will you always be on time and prepared? Will you ask questions? Will you challenge in a way that doesn’t sabotage progress but thoughtfully facilitates progress? Are you respectful to those around you?
  • What will you contribute?
  • How do you handle conflict? What will you do when your opinion is not adhered to?
  • How do you handle ambiguity?
  • What do you do when you don’t know something?
  • How do you handle failure?

The answers to those questions are more important than the demographics people fall into.

“There is nothing either good or bad,

but thinking makes it so”, William Shakespeare

There are a lot of qualities about Millenials in the United States that I really appreciate. I like how they are living in really great neighborhoods with a lot of amenities vs. saddling themselves with mortgages they’ll likely never pay off. I like how young parents are willing to leave their children with family or trusted friends so they can continue to travel and learn and explore. They know what it’s like to be raised by a village. I’m inspired by the way they navigate complex relationships. They’ve either been raised in families of divorce and remarriage or are close to people who have. I am intrigued by the way they manage love relationships. A young couple I met was asked if they were serious, they’re reply was “we haven’t put a label on it”. Wow, this stretches my thinking! I admire the way they communicate openly. I am delighted with the creation of the new Holiday “Friendsgiving”

I must admit, I like the way Millenials are forging change. Don’t we all want flexibility? When was the last time someone appreciated you? When was the last time you heard ‘good job’? Do you think you can squeeze in a bike ride today or lunch at a really cool restaurant? If you can, do it.

And if no one has told you today . . . “Good job. I’m glad you’re here.”