Have you ever paddled a canoe with one or even two other people aboard? If so, you know that even in calm waters, mistakes can be made. One canoeing team member may back their paddle while the others are paddling forward, causing the canoe to slew off course or slow down at the wrong time. Someone may even overbalance and tip the canoe – maybe even flip it!
As the partners or team in the canoe learn to work together, the number of mistakes drops off, skill levels rise, and a blissful synergy emerges.
I speak regularly about the importance of working together as a team, and my blog is filled with advice on improving the synergy of work teams and effective team development. What I haven’t always addressed regularly is an important factor that can make or break a new team.
That factor is you.
A team is made up of several unique individuals, each of whom brings specific skills and experience to their position within the company. Each person was brought onto the team because their skill set will help the team achieve its objectives. And each team member has their own personality – and their own foibles.
You are human. You will make mistakes. You will drop the ball occasionally.
What I’m here to tell you is that you and your team will be all right, and will be able to right the canoe, so to speak – as long as you work earnestly along with them to correct the mistake.
Personal responsibility – owning up to a mistake – is the key to resolving many barriers to success, both in your personal life and as part of a work team. It crosses a number of concepts that I’ve written about before. First, it requires the awareness that you’ve made a mistake and that the mistake is affecting the team. Remember my post about how Awareness Brings Effectiveness?
Second, personal responsibility recognizes the importance of maintaining trust with the team.
Third, owning up to a mistake can take you right out of your comfort zone. It can be just plain embarrassing to admit that you forgot to do something that was your responsibility, or that you made a miscalculation in your portion of the team’s programming code, or that you booked the wrong restaurant for that big client meeting.
The faster you recognize that a mistake was made or a deadline missed, and communicate that to the team, the faster everyone can put their heads together to come up with a solution.
When I was young, one of my favorite teachers in middle school gave me 10 words to live by. These simple words – they’re just two letters each! – have been instrumental in shaping my life and my success.
If it is to be,
It is up to me.
Your company, your boss, your co-workers, your family – it is not up to them to help you correct course and learn the right way to do things. It is up to you.
Excerpted from One Team, One Dream by Gregg Gregory
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