Saturday, May 31, 2008

Some thoughts on teamwork

My latest obsession: teamwork. 

Last week we had a meeting about BeadStyle — specifically, about what we think could make it better. Our publisher, editorial team, and art directors ate pizza (lunch and snacks are all-important agenda items) and talked about our workflow, creativity, and the competition. We also gave our opinions on what keeps us from thinking outside the box. (Someone said they hated that phrase. I agree.) There were some difficult moments. It's rare that someone wants your unvarnished opinion in the workplace.

Teamwork is a dicey proposition. I think it’s either there or it isn’t, and no amount of honesty or good will can create it. And, no one likes to have difficult conversations about performance or attitude.

Teamwork: also essential in sports. Is it a surprise that I am not an athlete?

I’ve been playing a lot of tennis lately and I’ve never felt more stressed about it. But it’s not the sport that’s making me crazy. It’s the politics of captaining a team. Encouraging people not just to be on a team, but to be a team. This is going to take work, but I’m determined to (gently) make it happen. That feels right — even if we break up at the end of the summer.

I’ve heard that the universe recognizes what you need and drops it in your lap. Maybe so.

Yesterday I was at the club and happened to run into Colleen and Kevin. Colleen is captaining a couple of teams and invited me to watch her mixed doubles team play last night. Then she gave me beer and sub sandwiches and we all hung out after the matches were over. That’s how her team is: the people who aren’t playing show up to support the people who are. And even though they’ve known each other for a jillion years, they’re welcoming to a new person. Lots of booze and hugs and parties.

And tennis. This morning, I played mixed doubles with Doug, Beth, and Chris. We played outside, lunging and swinging and missing, while the wind blew the ball all over. It was good times. Afterward, I said to Chris’ friend George, “Chris hasn’t played with me enough to be annoyed by my habits.” And George said, “Chris doesn’t get annoyed.” That’s true! It’s hard to find that combination of competitive drive and sportsmanship. And the ability to deal with mistakes and missed points.

This weekend I was reminded how rewarding tennis can be — even if it is a team sport.

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