Team Player and Individual
On Monday, Raj recalled his childhood when he authored a novel and was determined to find a publisher, though people believed it couldn’t be done. His determination paid off. By age 16 he had six books that carried his name — four novels, a collection of poems, and a book on mathematics. He was the youngest author of the state.
That beginning proved Raj a unique and thoughtful man who would always forge his own path. So, it makes sense that when as a software engineer who worked his way up, he observed and understood both the systems on which he worked and the people who worked with him. His observations and experiences led Raj back around to write Beyond Code: Learn to Distinguish Yourself in 9 Simple Steps! to help professionals recognize that success is found in personal and interpersonal understanding, not in following hot business trends.
Raj, it seems the hardest thing for team players to do is to find the balance between participation as a team member and taking opportunities to distinguish or differentiate themselves at the same time. What advice would you offer?
That’s a wonderful question there Liz. Thank you for asking.
At the outset, it looks like this question will put every team member in a quandary. Should they focus on themselves or should they focus on the team? From the question it looks like they have to pick sides when in fact, they don’t have to. The counter question is “Should a team member sacrifice his or her personal growth in order to demonstrate team loyalty?” Of course, not. So what is the real solution to this sticky problem?
Let me take a step back. We all know that every team is only as good as its team members. In fact, having a weak team member is like having a weak link in a chain. It can break the whole team or put the team’s success in jeoapardy. So, the first step is to remember that it hurts you and your team if you are a weak member of the team. The second thing to remember is that it hurts you (as you are a part of the team) if any member of the team is weak. So it is in your best interest that you grow strong within the team (it helps you and your team) and also ensure that every other team member in the team grows stronger (it helps your team and you in that order)
Remember that every project that you undertake is an opportunity to make something to your identity in the marketplace. Whether you want it or not, this VERY current project is shaping your identity in some way or the other. It just can’t NOT happen. If you are thinking that with this project ALONE, you can afford to DRIFT. You will be wrong and you will pay a big price. You are either adding more power to your identity or you are not. Since you can’t win back time (however hard you try) you will be better off trying to add more power to your identity by working towards distinguishing yourself.
Of course, what should not happen is that someone tries to differentiate or “stand out” from the crowd at the expense of someone else. In other words, someone should not try to “use” other team members for his or her own benefit. “Using people” might work in the short-term but would be detrimental in the long-run.
Here is something to think about. Most smart people won’t live up to their potential and don’t give 100% of what they have to their life. And, they know that. They are so smart that they have reasons why they don’t do it – one such reason will be the above you mentioned. By saying that “they are a team player and they don’t want to look selfish” they can easily avoid responsibility to walk that extra mile to build their identity and succeed in the long run.
On a seprate but related note, come to think about it – you really don’t have an option today but to distinguish yourself individually and as a team. You and your team are competing with global individuals and globalteams respectively. Individually and collectively all the team members have to work hard to retain their “value” as a team to the company that they belong. Otherwise, think about all those outsourcing initiatives that disbanded local teams in a heartbeat and moved work to offshore. If those teams were “special” it would be hard for the company to take that action. Commodity stuff and commoditized people can be outsourced but not the special ones.
To get to know Raj better visit his blog, Life Beyond Code, and come back on Thursday to read about The Inner Game. You can find Raj’s book, Beyond Code: Learn to Distinguish Yourself in 9 Simple Steps! in the sidebar.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Interview 11.1: Rajesh Setty — Raj’s Story
Interview 11.3: Raj Setty –The Inner Game
Interview 11.4: Raj Setty –The Outer Game
about-the-book-how-it-got-published/”>Interview 11.5: Raj Setty — About the Book: How It Happened