Our last blog on teams was all about the characters that emerge in a crisis situation. The crisis situation takes the focus because it demands priority. But crises are the high points - they come and go and the problems are resolved. So, what about in the day-to-day?
Everything is running smoothly and how it’s supposed to. It’s business as usual, and all are working diligently to keep it that way. So, what does this “normal” team look like? Let’s cast our characters and build the scene.
Parik and his coworkers are hard at work at the bank on a Monday morning. Amy and Oliver are tellers, Crystal is the accountant, and Parik is their manager. It’s nearing noon, their scheduled lunch hour, so Parik signals to the others by grabbing his packed lunch and taking a seat at the common table in the breakroom. Crystal is the next to follow, while Amy and Oliver finish helping their customers, then lock up and join the other two.
They begin talking about what each did that weekend, laughing together about the mishaps and fun. Eventually, the conversation topic switched to family - Oliver said he had taken his wife and 3 step-children to the amusement park. Amy shared that she had step-brothers, although they hadn’t been as close as she’d like recently. Although they’re all grown, the family had stayed close - that is until their parents decided to separate after the holidays.
This person makes eye contact and really sees people. This is a great person to have in a team situation, especially when things are moving really fast. This is the one who sees how people are responding. They’re able to see what’s going on by observing non-verbals, and can recognize who needs a little extra attention.
Oliver notices an energy shift in Amy as she shares this news with everyone. He watches her eyes dart between them all and then fall to her hands in her lap. He sees her shoulders scrunch and hears her sigh. In response, Oliver gently and briefly rests a hand on Amy’s shoulder. He supplies encouragement, saying it can get back to the way it was. He suggests Amy try to get in touch with them and offer a time to get together.
- If this is you, thank you for keeping your eyes open to the people around you. Thank you for seeing not just the folks who like to sit in the front, but also the ones who slipped to the back corner.
- If this is something you want to try, practice growing your “other awareness”. As a part of emotional intelligence, this is where you stop paying attention to yourself so much, and start looking to the people around you. Who are they, what are they feeling in this particular situation, and how does it show up on their faces or in their body language?
This is the one that uses awkward humor to lighten up the moment. Come on, we all know this one! Sometimes their jokes are a little bit corny, and it’s true that on occasion their humor may rub someone the wrong way, but the joy of having this team member is their deep awareness that levity can bring us together.
Crystal realizes the mood dampened a bit, and she doesn’t like to see her friend upset. She brings up comedic examples of step-siblings having a bumpy relationship at times, and how it works out in the end. She mentions the movies “Cheaper by the Dozen”, “Step Brothers”, and “Clueless”. Although it’s awkward for Amy’s sibling relationships to be compared to the goofs in “Step Brothers” or the romance of “Clueless”, it makes her and the others laugh.
- If this is you, thanks for making us smile. Even if we groan from time to time about your silly puns or strange comments, thanks for keeping them coming.
- If this is something you want to try, look for ways to poke fun at situations, not people. Draw inspiration from the great comic masters that drew universal laughs.
This one acts as an observer - listening and taking it all in - making sure nothing gets missed. This is the one who isn’t just paying attention to people, but also the other details - such as the schedule - thinking strategically and tactically. They are thinking about the big picture to make sure that the little thing we take care of today, will have positive impacts for us in the long run. This person is the one making sure we’ve got the supplies we need to execute the tasks we’ve prioritized. They’re watching to make sure that we have all the tools we need.
Parik is thinking about employee morale. He understands that Amy has been upset about this for a while, and observes the effect her news has on Crystal and Oliver. They’ve been taken up in supporting her - which is no harm done! - but he wants to ensure business can carry on as usual, too. He thinks of something he can do to help Amy as a person, and allow Crystal and Oliver to continue on without distraction. He decides to offer to cover her post, while Amy takes a personal day - a "safety minute" - to spend time with her family.
- If this is you, thank you for observing the needs of others, and realizing what can be useful to them at the time. You keep things on track, while also remembering we’re all people who sometimes need a little help.
- If this is something you want to try, improve your organization and strategic thinking skills. Make it clear what needs to get done and when, and that everyone knows their role. Try to plan ahead and communicate any changes.
This person is the effective communicator who understands the language being spoken, and translates from person to person. No surprise here that a communicator shows up on my list of favorite team members! Translators, interpreters, liaisons, bridge builders - however you choose to call these folks - they understand the points of view of different parties, and help them see each other’s perspective. These people are treasures!
The gestures and kind words of coworkers may seem out of place for some. But Amy understands that her coworkers are only trying to be good friends - supporting her and making her feel better. She appreciates their efforts and knows she can successfully communicate this back to them. She looks Oliver in the eye when telling him thank you, gives Crystal a smile and laugh, and takes Parik up on his offer for a day off to spend with family.
- If this is you, thank you, Merci! Gracias! Obdrigado! Kiitos! Eventually, it’s important that we all learn to communicate in each other’s language, but until we can do that, we need people like you bridging gaps, building pathways for us, and helping us interpret what the other might mean.
- If this is something you want to try, one great strategy to learn this is to spend three or more months in a culture, land, language or a society that is not your own. Learn to see and hear things from a perspective that is not native to you. If that’s not practical or feasible from where you are right now, maybe it’s not three months, maybe it’s a couple of hours from time to time as you seek out meetings, social situations, or other places to listen to stories that are not the ones you’ve “grown up with”.
This list is not all encompassing, of course, but chances are you’ll run into these characters at some point. Just because these characters aren’t as prominent at times - such as in a crisis - doesn’t mean they aren’t important! These are the team characters we interact with in the day-to-day, ensuring all runs smoothly.
What characters have you run into? Do you recognize yourself in any of these? If not, what character are you?