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Team Differences

As a leader in the workplace or at home, husband, you are the coach. It is your vision that drives your team and you are accountable and responsible for communicating that vision.

Recently, as Corie and I attended our certification training for teaching “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Army Families” by John & Jane Covey, we were challenged to create a Mission Statement for our family, and maybe even simplify it into a catchphrase. We have discussed creating a family mission statement for years, especially since Corie went through the training as a retreat participant during the initial months of my last deployment. Truthfully, I don’t think we have settled on one, just yet, but we were surprised to acknowledge that we probably already have two family catchphrases that fit just right.

They came about during the course of this last Spring and Summer as I moved into the Brigade Chaplain position to cover down during the interim. We have always loved doing retreats, so we did not shy away from tackling retreats for our previous Battalion and for the Spouses of Deployed Soldiers of two other Battalions in the Brigade (whose loved ones are already back home with them as I write this!). We began to wear ourselves quite thin, because the weekends where we were not travelling to lead a retreat, we were coordinating volunteers and leading the Children’s Ministry at Chapel Next at Fort Stewart. To say we were tired, is an understatement.

Almost jokingly, somewhere in there, I just began to repeat two phrases from my high school football years with the Eastside Eagles, “Go Team” and “Fourth Quarter” (while holding up four fingers). I kept repeating “fourth quarter” because I knew (or so thought) that we were in the final push and that a break was coming up around the bend. I had been worn out from covering three Battalions before moving up, and was just about give out. Unfortunately, it seemed that this was (is) a never ending “fourth quarter,” and we would have to “dig deep” and find some “intestinal fortitude” (thanks Coach Carlisle).

So before Corie and I would get up and speak, before we took a deep breath to push through another night of getting ready for chapel in the morning, and before we tackled another seemingly insurmountable task; we would high five and simply say, “Go Team.” And it stuck.

And as we reflected, we understood that it meant so much more. It means we are working together and helping each other out. We have a common goal and we are not going to let the other members down. We aren’t going to sacrifice the welfare of the other members and we will roll everyone up into what we are doing. It means we have a shared vision of service and a dedication to make it happen. It feels good to be a team member. It feels fantastic to be a team. And there is a difference.

As a leader in the workplace or at home, husband, you are the coach. It is your vision that drives your team and you are accountable and responsible for communicating that vision. During my first deployment, we explained to Aidan that I was going to Afghanistan to minister to soldiers, and his part to play in that was to send part of his allowance to an orphanage in Afghanistan to take care of other children. He immediately “got it.” When we carted the boys around to various marriage retreats (which they are obsessively fond of now), we always told them that mommy and daddy are going to help other mommies and daddies have a better family. We should not have been surprised to find our boys reaching out to other kids during childcare time and making great friends as their way of making a difference. Have you communicated to your family what it is that you do, and the integral part you play in changing the world? Does your whole family have the same vision? Try it, you might even surprise yourself with inspiration.

The most subordinate person in your family/organization should be able to fully articulate the vision of your group/unit. That is how you know it is both (1) achievable and (2) unifying. That is the difference between being a team member and being a team.

If everyone plays an integral part in the team, then it implies that their special skill set is present and available for a reason. If that person gains energy from the world or processes information differently from you, it should not threaten you or the organization, but should open your team up to new ways of seeing and approaching a problem. Constantly ask you team, “what am I not seeing?” If you have difficulty figuring out personality types or strengths, then employ an inventory to begin the discussion, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Gallup StrengthsFinder. They can be used in conjunction well, and have given Corie and I great insight into our marital dynamics. When we had Aidan take the StrengthsExplorer (the StrengthsFinder for children/teens) so much of his first grade struggle was explained. Here we were both ‘Relators,’ having a hard time understanding why our ‘Compassionate, Confident, Relator’ was having a hard time not talking to other kids as soon as he finished his classwork ahead of others (when he should have been checking his work). Sometimes having the right vocabulary can explain why a Feeling Introvert can clash with a Thinking Extrovert.

I don’t say that to sell you on anything, because I don’t make a dime whether or not choose to use either. What I am selling you on is open-mindedness and making the effort to unify your team, as a leader. What you lack, make sure you employ someone else on your team to make up for it. Ask Corie about being how her ‘Responsibility’ can both clash and compliment my ‘Strategic.’ Do not feel inadequate if your skill set does not mirror that of your boss or peers, but instead find out what special characteristics you have to offer. And if you are the one in charge, the manner in which you approach the appreciation of differences will dictate the shape and function of your team, you can be your own worst enemy.

And back to the “7 Habits,” Synergy is all about appreciation differences and moving forward with a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Wouldn’t you like that to be said of your organization or family?