May 11, 2021
“There’s some unpleasant work that needs doing. It might as well be me who does it.” This is a quote by author Julie Lythcott-Haims. She wrote an excellent book in 2015 called How To Raise An Adult. I’ve been thinking about this quote so much that I wrote it down and taped it to the wall above my desk at work.

Imagine if we all worked on teams with people whose attitude reflected the meaning behind this quote. To me, it suggests this thought process: “I am no better than anyone else on this team. My job here is to contribute in any way possible so that we all improve and succeed. Sometimes my work will be pleasant, other times it will be unpleasant. I am not too important or special to be above doing dirty work.”

True teamwork suggests a certain degree of commitment and reliability to the group. This means that team members will have to put their own needs and desires on the back burner at times, in order to help the team make strides toward their goal. This is called sacrifice and it can feel uncomfortable.

Some people prefer working independently, on their own schedule, in accordance with their own mood and energy. This means that someone can throttle up their work drive when they happen to be motivated, and dial it down when they are distracted or busy with other pursuits. This independence is crucial to some people, despite the reality that it means they are always working alone.

One of the benefits of working on a team is that you get to learn from others. Each person contributes different strengths and talents to a project, meaning you finish an assignment with a new understanding about something. Interacting with people whose skill set is different than your own means you never stop learning.

Collaborating successfully with others means that you have to know when to step back and quiet down. This can be hard for alpha thinkers who like to be in control. All of us can benefit from listening more and allowing others a moment in the spotlight more often. Quieting our own ego is a mindfulness practice in itself.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to be a better team member. As we mature, we become more self-reflective. I admire the adults I know who willingly share their talents while acknowledging all the areas where they struggle. The most valuable teammates are those who are comfortable being open and vulnerable with the group.