the challenge of team

For the last few months I’ve been working with a group on a joint project.  The project is starting to get towards the sharp end of our deadline, with just a few weeks to go before delivery date on a joint report.

Today we met to mull over the current draft version of our report.

It’s a document that I wrote on behalf of the group, trying to listen well to what was being said (and left unsaid) and say what needs to be said, in a way that can be received.

Today was about sharpening the draft, about picking out the parts that needed fine tuning (or removing), about putting some more flesh on the bones in a couple of spots.

The group I’m working with bring to the table a lot of experience, and a wide collection of wisdom.  And they were gentle with me (really), encouraging of the work that had been done, and offering valuable insights into how to make the report even better.

It was a positive and healthy discussion that will result in a better document.  A good example of how a team can produce good work.

So why then,  did I face such an internal struggle with the whole discussion today?

I struggled to allow “my” document to become “our” document.  When genuinely good insights were offered, I was beating myself up for not getting it right the first time.  When suggestions were made I wanted to disagree and argue my case.  Time and again I jumped to defend my words, justifying doing so as being my wanting the group to understand why I wrote what I wrote.

I’m sure this is a normal editorial experience, and definitely true for any group that write a joint document.  There has to be a process of making a draft into a cohesive whole that the group can claim ownership of.

And as I said, the group were great today, encouraging, gentle, creative (really).

So why my strong reaction?

I think I’m as committed to the idea of working in teams as anybody. I think the future of the church (or at least of our approach to ministry) depends heavily on our capacity to bring effective teams into play.

Today I had just a little insight into the challenge that lies before us as we seek to do that.  We not only need people who are theoretically committed to the idea of working in teams, who are equipped with the necessary skills, but also people who can live with the reality of what team means.

It means less of me, and more of us.

It means that my work becomes our work.

And it means dealing with the fact that together, all our gifts, experiences and skills on the table, we can do more/better/higher/faster/stronger than individually.

And for me at least, it means putting my own self-interest, my own arrogance, and my own perceptions of grandeur to one side to listen to, and learn from my team. It means acknowledging that (as the biblical wisdom declares) “as iron sharpens iron, so shall one sharpen another”.

Team-work is hard work, specially for those of us who thrive in splendid isolation.

I’m thankful to my team for helping me today, for being gentle, and for revealing for me a little more about my inner workings.  As much as the process was personally challenging, I think it’s been a succesful day.


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