Your crew is not you.
You are not your crew.
You will probably be a member of different crews for different pursuits.
Often, you will not lead the crew you are in. More often, you will simply be a member of a crew.
Your crew’s success is not necessarily your success.
If you succeed, it is probably because you were a member of a successful crew.
The question is not so much: What can I do to succeed?
A better question is probably: What can I do with my skills and strengths, as a member of a crew, to help the crew succeed?
In a world of “self-help” books, there is an irony in their category’s name and focus. People who are focused on “self” may not do as well as people who focus on their crew. People who focus on “I” may not succeed as well as people who focus “we” – if only because even if you hit your “I” targets, the objectives are fewer, benefiting one person and not necessarily a group of people. People who are interested in doing it “My way” might achieve their goal, but at the expense of members of their crew. “I did it our way” may not be as lyrical as “I did it my way,” but it might be a better consideration.
If you ever watched the classic Star Trek series, these ideas were pervasive and inherent in those stories. That series’ writers, men and women who came out of World War II, wrote stories where the best of crews were made up of people with excellent skills and diverse backgrounds.
What If You Don’t Have A Crew? Or What If You Are Not Good At Being A Specialized Member Of A Crew?
As an illustrative example to help explain and define role-playing considerations within a crew, I’ll share some of my personal experiences working with crews.
I’m not a person who plays solitaire – literally or figuratively. I’m a social person – even in the games and hobbies I choose to play most days: basketball, online games, blogging, etc.
I’m sharing some of these concepts because they are new to me – things I’ve recently discovered about traits, weaknesses, and possibly strengths. I didn’t realize until recently that there were some commonalities across my experiences with different crews.
I’ve always enjoyed team (or crew) activities: singing in choirs or small groups, acting in troupes, performing in skits, playing team sports, card games, and online group games. I’m not sure why I tend to prefer interactive activities over solitary activities, but I do.
I was playing the online silly-fun group game “Team Fortress 2″ the other day. In Team Fortress, you can play many different game styles. But in many of the game formats, during the game you can change roles repeatedly, playing one of nine different character classes, each different character class has a specialized skill set. For example, a sniper has strong long-range power, but is tunnel-visioned in perspective, and weak in melee combat. Other character classes are fast but fragile, or strong but slow, or stealthy but weak, or mobile but clumsy.
Problems develop for your team often during the game. As the problems change, you can change your character class to play the role or do the task you perceive is needed. But the other day, I played in a competitive format where I had to remain as only one character class for the whole game. I don’t usually play that format, but in playing that format, I was surprised how quickly I became frustrated – as I noticed specialized tasks that needed to be performed, but I could not perform the tasks with the one tool set available in my one, unchangeable, character class. I wanted to change roles within my crew, to meet the crew’s interests, but I was not allowed to adapt and play a different role.
And that was a moment of epiphany for me: As a person, I love wearing different hats and playing different roles. I do not like playing one very-specialized role within my crew and being forced to only play that role.
The problem (or question) for me is not: Are you specialized or talented enough? A problem for my personality is more often: In my crew, am I allowed to perform in several different specialized roles? Am I able to adapt to meet the changing needs of my crew’s sophisticated and changing problems? When I’m not able to play different roles, I get frustrated quickly.
What Important Concepts Does This Illustrate?
When you have trouble finding a crew to work with, or when you have trouble finding your role within a crew, sometimes a signficant problem may be you are looking for the wrong solution. You may be looking for a crew who is looking for you to play one specialized role, and that may be the wrong objective to pursue.
There is a famous “Help You Find Your Ideal Career” book called “What Color Is Your Parachute?” As the title implies, the book is designed to help people find the one occupation that fits their aptitudes, priorities, and goals. But for some of us (especially for people consistently looking for one more option), the title’s question may be poorly aimed. Some of us are not looking for one color. Some of us are naturally multiple colors, a rainbow, switching to different colors as the colors around us call for different coordinations.
When I was playing Team Fortress, I could see my team needed someone to complete a highly skilled and specialized task. I got frustrated when I was not allowed to change (adapt) to the different skill set. I am a creature of adaptations, of identifying changing problems and changing my actions to solve them.
In real life, it may be more profitable to be highly skilled in a highly specialized area of expertise. But for some of us, we cannot excel in the redundancy and “been there and done that” that comes with narrow specializations. Some people are naturally adaptive creatures, frustrated when our motivations to be considerate, to solve a diverse set of problems, are stifled by narrow role definitions.
So, I’m not saying it’s better to be a moderately skilled “jack of all trades” than it is to be a highly specialized professional in one area of expertise. But if you are naturally a “jack of all trades” more than a “highly specialized” person, or vice versa, it may be counter-intuitive and counter-productive to try to be the other. Rejoice in who you are, even if the alternative is popularly perceived to be more favorable.
If you are a creature of adaptation, find a crew that needs an adaptive creature, a person who can change to capably perform different roles. Be proud of who you are.