You moan, you groan. Your manager has called one of his infamous “team-building” meetings, and it’s only the threat of getting fired that propels your butt out of your chair and into the meeting. What a waste! Sitting around doing departmental Kumbaya when you have piles of work marked “Urgent!” and “Rush!” on your desk.
So it isn’t exactly in a mood of eager anticipation that you park your unhappy self in the meeting room. Mobile devices are strictly forbidden, so you don’t even have the distraction of mindless browsing, tweeting or texting. You wish you’d learned the art of napping with your eyes open, especially when your manager announces with great pride, his latest and greatest team-building exercise.
He states that he wants the team to work more closely together, to think of each other more as family than as co-workers. And you’re thinking “Right. As in highly dysfunctional family.” He goes on to say that each team member has a particular strength they lend to the team, and that if each team member would bear in mind their teammates’ strengths, the team would function better as a whole. A highly cohesive unit. He states he will now point out what he feels is each team member’s strength.
Oh great, you think, he’s gonna tell us who the movers and shakers are, and pin a woeful L on the others. Like we didn’t know already who his favorites are. You stifle a yawn and pray for this to be over soon.
Your manager turns to the guy you consider by far the most innovative and creative in the bunch, and says “Your strength is energy. You bring tremendous energy to whatever project you’re engaged in.” You’re surprised. You would have thought he’d laud this guy’s innovations.
Your manager turns to another team member and says “Your strength is your ‘whatever’ attitude.” You smirk inside. Yup, he’s gonna nail the L on this guy, who was born with the sarcasm gene. But your manager takes a different route. He says “You don’t jump up and down enthusiastically, but you never complain. You say ‘whatever’ to any part of the project you’re assigned and take it on.”
You sit up and take notice. Your manager’s right. That is how Mr. Whatever behaves. Your manager defines another’s strength as ‘playfulness’ and appreciates how that individual lets in new ideas. You listen differently now, as your manager speaks to, not work accomplishments or the lack thereof, but to something positive about the essence of every person on the team. And he’s right on, every time.
Your manager concludes by stating that he wants each team member to think of the others in the light of these strengths. And darned if that isn’t exactly what happens! You start looking at your co-workers differently, not in terms of what they can or can’t do for you, how successful they are at this or that project, but rather how they bring their “energy,” or “whatever or “playfulness” to the mix, and how that does make the whole team function better.
No, you’ll never relish team-meetings, and some of them still feel like slogging through mud, but you have a newly acquired respect for your manager, and more importantly, for those you work with.
And work suddenly feels a lot less like–work.