It was a bright sunny morning when all the employees marched onto a few buses and drove off to the yearly fun day. The destination was a nature reserve where we would break out into smaller varied groups. The group that I was in had a mix of people with whom I had worked with directly before, as well as new-ish faces.
We did a little icebreaking, trying to share an unknown personal detail, while we sat around in a circle on the grass. The guide told us some history of the location and then brought us to the first activity.
The activity involved bows, arrows, and targets. The guide split us into smaller teams and asked each team to choose a leader--the moment where I always hold back my natural urge to jump for the nomination and question whether I truly want the responsibility or not. I decided that I’d rather be an observer for this one and let someone else rise to the occasion.
A few minutes later, the leader of our team started asking each member what they thought they could achieve. He explained that the goal of the exercise was simply to get as close to the final estimate as you could. So whether you thought you can hit the target from a foot away or five feet away, it didn’t matter. What mattered was your estimate and if you could make that happen. There was a complex rating system for how many points each distance was worth and what that would be multiplied by based on the proximity of the arrow to the center of the target.
At that point, I really just wanted to stay in my seat under the tree and watch. But the leader approached me and reminded me that each person on the team really needed to give an estimate. They needed 100% participation.
I couldn’t argue with that, so I made sure that I understood the rules and asked him to put me down for the minimum commitment. I stood the closest I could and shot the target: bulls eye. He congratulated me on hitting my target and I sat back down. I watched others take their turns and saw how some people were actually naturally talented and/or experienced in archery.
It got to a point where the teams still needed to reach their goal, but the majority of the members were similar to me. They just wanted to lounge. They did the minimum required and didn’t see the need to contribute further, leaving the team leader with a gap to fill in order to match the estimate.
So, on a few teams, the leaders picked the more accurate shooters and had them finish off the round. From an efficiency standpoint, this was ideal. But would it have been sustainable in the long term? Also, what impact did that have on the team as a unit?
There was one group where they did it differently. There was still the more accurate shooters, but instead of taking the job and finishing it off themselves, they encouraged their team members. They guided each individual to help them perfect their skills. Whether it was in posture or hand-eye coordination, the experts happily shared their tricks. The overall morale of that team was higher, as the whole team worked to see if they could match their estimate.
Individual Merit or Group Collaboration?
After each team completed the task, we gathered again in a circle on the grass and the guide asked us about our observations. He prodded gently, helping us to relate the exercise to our work dynamic.
It was a little of a brain twister because we were being asked to compare physical sportsmanship to professional expertise. Meaning, is the person who will keep shooting the arrow the same person who will take care of the repetitive tasks in the office? Did we estimate our success next to the target similar to how we estimate our daily work contribution?
On a team level, do we rely on the stronger, more skilled team members to do the heavy work? Or, do we allow the less experienced members to flex their muscles, gain the joy of a healthy challenge, and guide them toward achieving the team’s goals?
Wind down on the Ground
It’s some good food for thought. If the less experienced members are not given the platform to succeed, how will they ever become more experienced? But take that to a real-life scenario when you have a deadline to meet and a client to please. Sometimes, it's just so much easier to call the expert up and have them confidently hit the target instead of tying up two resources, one of which would need the support or mentorship of the expert. It definitely takes planning and good judgement to decide who should shoot and when.
Relying on the individual expert will get the job done. However, the value that the expert can provide by mentoring another team member will support future jobs. It will also allow the expert to focus on greater challenges and avoid burnout.
Yes, involving more people may take longer, require more patience and coordination, but ultimately it will provide all around greater satisfaction. When working with a team the goal should be to help each and every member advance, and that puts everyone on a higher and better level.
As Project Manager at Tribe Creative, Chedva is happy to share her knowledge in all parts of the process as well as her creative thinking which has brought her this far. She is currently living in Ramat Beit Shemesh with her family of five, trying to find joy in the routine and creating positive memories when there is a change of plan.