Big gestures, individual accomplishments, stand-out achievements, boast-worthy soundbites, metrics to demonstrate step change. That’s the corporate paradigm. Survival means distinguishing yourself: how are you different, better, faster, or more creative than the next guy? Lip service is given to team work, and black marks for lack thereof. However, everyone understands the real ticket to success: Make sure your name is on it.
When the requirement for measurable individual accomplishment is removed from the equation, how does this work or can it even work?
When you don’t need to distinguish yourself, what is the driving force or is there even a driving force?
When you don’t need to demonstrate your personal greater value, what changes, if anything at all?
I caught a brief glimpse of what this might look like on a mission trip this summer. Working on a church construction site, our small team from the US quickly eased into a rhythm of rotating duties, anticipating each other’s needs, and granting everyone permission to contribute according to their own pace and abilities. Taking a break to rest sore muscles, or stopping to engage with the onsite work crew were valued equally with back-breaking shoveling, sweeping and hammering.
There was trust that everyone was in the game; we all wanted to be there; we all wanted to do our best. There was satisfaction in knowing we had done our best; it wasn’t ‘glamorous’, but it was ‘important’, our host reminded us. There was appreciation for any and all contributions. We saw smiles on faces, shared laughter across language barriers, touched hearts and pulled on strengths previously unknown. It all came together to make a difference.
To answer the question of “how does this work?“, any pressures to perform are born by the team, not me as an individual.
To answer the question of “what is the driving force?“, it’s the desire to belong to something bigger than ourselves.
To answer the question of “what changes?“, it’s the confidence that I could go much further on this kind of team, than with a collection of individual agendas.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
When the bishop shared this African saying with us, by way of explaining his vision, he gave me the words that had eluded me. That’s it! That’s what this week had been about!