If You Don’t Work with Joe, You Die

For the fifth year, I hold a Toastmasters District Office.

For the fifth year, I need to work with a brand new mix of people.

For the fifth year, as the first months of the year passed, I had the feeling that “this team is not perfect”.

See, in my year as Area Director, I felt that my Division Director was telling me too much what I had to do (cheers, Ewan! :))

In my Division Director year, I felt some of my Area Directors were not really that dedicated.

In my Club Growth Director year, I felt that our District Director was not telling us enough what we should do (cheers Andrei; as you said, you can’t make everyone happy right?).

In my Program Quality Director year, I was annoyed that some people on the team were not really present.

And now, in my District Director year? I simply have doubts that “this team is perfect”.


The Main Point

Half of the people reading this have just started writing me an angry email / message, and that’s okay. For the rest of you, the point I’m trying to make follows:

I also realize that this is the best team we’ve got right now. Maybe – it’s the best team we’ve ever had. The funny thing is: What does it mean, “the perfect team”? Clearly, the “perfect team” is just an abstract concept in my head. Not only that’s never going to happen. Probably, it would not even be that perfect if that theoretical team did exist (because its flaws would come out in reality). Taking into account that for the past five years, I always felt there was something to complain about – what if it’s me who’s not perfect after all? (I know what you’re thinking: The answer is Yes.)

First step towards achieving success with any team is embracing it – and committing to working with it.

Illustration: The Best Team Available

Imagine you’re leading an expedition of 27 down in Antarctica. Your ship got stuck on an ice floe. As a leader, it’s your job to get everyone to safety.

This is what in 1915 happened to Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (read the full story in The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene).

Not good.

Maybe you would think that sharing one goal (to survive), everybody would be so easy to work with, suppress their ego, and make no trouble. Right? Wrong!

In fact, Shackleton expected this. He identified a few “weak links” in the group. He knew the expedition photographer needed to feel important. The navigator was self-centered and needed constant attention. The ship-carpenter, the oldest member of the crew, was grumpy and did not take hard labor well.

If Shackleton simply shouted at them: “Come on guys, don’t behave like children, we must work together, otherwise we’ll die here!” Would he be right? Perhaps. But likely, this would single the offenders out and perhaps make them even harder to work with. So, he did something different.

He made to sure to ask the photographer for his opinion on all the important matters – and complimented him on his suggestions. He brought the navigator to stay in his tent – and talked to him more than to anyone else. He paid attention to when the ship-carpenter would get tired – and call a break for everyone when that happened.

Shackleton knew that chances of his crew to survive were slim – and their only hope was to work together and get the best out of everyone. He also knew that his team was the best team available.

And so found a way to do it.

What if You Had to Work With Joe

In our non-life-threatening circumstances, it’s easy to say: “This Joe guy is such a ****. I’m just not going to work with him.” The question is: Is that helpful?

Imagine: “If you don’t work with Joe, you die.”

What then?

Photo by Paul Carroll on Unsplash

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