Past Midway Ramblings on Business & Life

Being Accepted into Any Functional Group

When you work in groups, you can’t help but notice certain social dynamics within the group and between groups. Some groups are more serious. Some are more fun. Some groups are hyper efficient. Some take longer to get things done.

Groups can do things that individuals can’t do alone. Consequently, at some point, most of us want to be part of a group, to share a collective aim with a collection of individuals.

Not only do we want to be part of a group, we also want to feel accepted within the groups we join. But what does it mean to be accepted into a group? And, how can we position ourselves such that a group will want to accept us?

In this article, I present a general framework to answer these questions, based on my own observations and life experiences.

Functional Groups

A functional group is any collection of people who set out to accomplish a specific task, often with a common goal or interest as the mechanism that binds them.

Work groups tend to center around mutual functional goals. Examples might include the engineering department, accounting, sales, finance, or human resources.

Social groups tend to center around common interests or mutual bonds: a bridge club, a soccer team, a choir, a band, theater cast, neighbors, cyclists, nudists, or family. Some social groups are more functional than others.

Andy’s Framework to Be Accepted into a Group

In either case, work or social, most people would like to feel that they belong and to be perceived as a valued member of the group. But this isn’t always the case.

Contrary to the famous Groucho Marx quote,1 we inherently value belonging to groups that desire us.

So, how do we become valued (and valuable) to the groups in which we belong or would like to belong?

Most functional groups value the same three universal traits from individual members.2

In a bit, we’ll look at a matrix of the various combinations of these three attributes that a person might possess. But for now, let’s consider the bookend cases:

THE ROCK STAR – If you maximize all three attributes (Skills, Effort, Likability), a functional group will readily welcome you and consider themselves fortunate to have you as part of their team, organization, company, production, or family. You might even end up leading the group. Actually, with time, you will probably lead the group.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have:

THE INCOMPETENT, INSUFFERABLE DONKEY – The Donkey is deficient in all three attributes. They have no skills. They don’t really try. And, they are not likeable. Groups reject Donkeys, not just because they offer no value, but because they destroy value – a negative contributor. Donkeys are a complete distraction, a disruption, and manage to screw things up, frequently… and not in the fun-loving way.

Let’s discuss each of the three key attributes separately, then outline the logical consequences of the various combinations of strengths in some attributes and weaknesses in others.

1 – Skills (Competence)

Skills relate to your knowledge, wisdom, and ability to complete the tasks the group needs you to perform. Competence means you do it well, efficiently, thoroughly, and on time… and likely that you also communicate well with others in the group.

Skills, akin to competence, include an endless range of talents and abilities. Some skills are quite specific, like plumbing, building complex Excel spreadsheets, raising cattle, or computer programming. These are hard skills. Other skills are more general, like project management, leadership, or listening such that your conversational counterpart feels heard. These are soft skills.

Different positions within a company or group (and different times and circumstances within positions) require some varying combination of hard and soft skills. Typically, a diversity of skills within a group helps the group complete its mission.

One unique and valued soft skill is the ability to learn new hard skills.

For this, you must be both intellectually curious and teachable.

People high in the skills department for their trade tend to enjoy their careers to the extent they continue to learn.

People low in the skills attribute have developed a habit of stagnating in their knowledge of new skills. These people may be skilled in specific areas, even exceptional at some tasks, but if they do not possess the desire to learn new skills, they are deficient in the skills department, predominantly for their lack of future versatility.

Some people, content having perfected one specific skill, find they are redundant when that skill is no longer needed within the organization, perhaps replaced by a new product, service, or technology.

Sometimes, a functional group may call upon us to do something we simply don’t know how to do (yet). That is, to learn something new. To figure it out.

Part of being competent is the willingness and ability to figure out how to do something you previously did not know how to do (and sometimes quickly).

This combination of curiosity, intelligence, intuition, learning, and growth is itself a highly valued trait.

Corollary: Part of being competent also includes the knowledge of your own limitations. Knowing when you don’t know something or when you don’t know how to do something is important. However, this isn’t usually the failure point. Most people know when they are in over their heads. The failure is in not communicating this to the group (or group leader). The real skill here is the humility to ask for help when needed.

Another key sub-component of the overarching Skills category is the ability to communicate succinctly, both verbally and in writing.3 This is likely the skill with the largest payoff for a young person to hone. Excellent communication gets you noticed quickly, early in your career. And, getting noticed early in your career can pay huge dividends.

2 – Effort

Effort is different from results in that Effort is a metric that considers how hard you try.

Effort is an amalgamation of work ethic, grit, drive, determination, and stick-with-it-ness. The measure of Effort is the answer to the question: Did you really try?

Story #1 – High Skills, Low Effort, Very Likeable

My undergraduate degree was in mechanical engineering. Engineering classes have labs. Labs are where you spend three hours per week trying to figure out how to do some basic experiment, and then an additional four-to eight hours writing the report about the thing you did and the results you got.

Labs take a disproportionate amount of time, relative to the rest of your classes, especially when you consider that labs only count as one credit hour toward your degree.

My college roommate (Brad) and I were almost always lab partners. We worked well together and usually managed to figure out the cryptic lab instructions and complete the experiment during the allotted three-hour window. We also had a similar work ethic and quality expectation for the subsequent report write-up.

Sometimes, the lab professor would group us into three-person teams. One particular Physics II lab experiment, Brad and I were paired with Crank (not his real name, obviously, but chosen precisely because Crank never cranked out any real work). Brad and I knew what this meant – Crank’s contribution would be sitting around telling entertaining stories to distract us while performing exactly 0% of the lab work. Coincidentally, this is the exact same percentage Crank seemed to care about homework in general.

But this lab was unusually difficult. We couldn’t figure out the convoluted instructions so there was a lot of uncertainty at our lab station about what we were supposed to be doing that afternoon. Perhaps Crank’s story was too distracting.

“Hey guys,” Crank began, “we need to get this lab done fast today because I have a golf game at 5:00.”

Afternoon labs were 2:00pm – 5:00pm. Crank was on a tight schedule.

Apparently, Crank liked to play golf. Who knew?

We opened our lab notebooks and attempted to decipher the labyrinth of byzantine instructions. In this instance, “we” means Brad and I. Meanwhile, Crank started telling one of his about-the-time-when stories.

“Dude, when I was in high school, my friend and I drove 18 hours overnight from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Las Vegas to gamble for the weekend.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, we scored some fake IDs and thought it would be fun.”

Crank was all about fun.

“So, I think we should set up the apparatus like this for the experiment.”

“Wait. Did your parents know you were going to Vegas?”

“Pffbt. No way. We told our parents we were staying the night at each other’s house for the weekend.”

You can understand why an intro like this might distract us from lab work.

“We gambled all Saturday and drove back home Sunday. Our parents never knew!” Crank laughed, clearly proud of himself.

Interesting story. Going to Vegas would not have occurred to us as an option while in high school. Brad and I lived life more on the conservative (boring) side.

OK. Back to the lab.

“Dude, are we supposed to connect this part here and plug it in? And what does this thing do?”

Just kidding, there’s more to the story.

“A few months later,” Crank continued, “I was sitting on the couch in the living room watching the evening news with my mom. A special report came on about underage gambling in Las Vegas. The next scene showed footage from a hidden camera as it panned across the casino floor, showing people that looked too young to gamble.”

“That’s when I saw myself on TV!”

“No way! Did your mom see you there?” we asked.

Lab work pretty much halted completely as Crank’s tale of high school shenanigans was considerably more interesting.

“I was like, ‘Mom, look at this stain on my shirt’ to get her to look away from the TV.”

“She looked at my shirt as the camera panned past me in the casino. Haha! That was close!”

“OK, we only have like 2 hours to finish now, so we need to get going,” Crank said.

Right. Good point.

Brad and I resumed trying to figure out the lab procedures.

“If we connect this electrode here, I think… no wait. What did the instructions say?”

“Dude, last year, we were having this massive party at our frat house…”

You can imagine this story. I assume it was an amalgamation of most of Crank’s stories.

Meanwhile, Brad and I were making zero progress on the experiment.

Physics II – Electricity and Magnetism. No one really understands that stuff, especially us that day.

With only 30 minutes remaining to do the entire lab before Crank needed to leave for his golf appointment, he stood up from the stool where he had perched and began to set up the experiment. His body language said Step aside boys.

Crank then single-handedly constructed and performed the experiment by himself while Brad and I recorded the results in our lab notebooks. Crank finished the lab with a few minutes to spare.

“OK guys, gotta catch my game. See you later.”

Brad and I looked at each other like, “Dude, what just happened?”

“How did he know what to do?”

All this time, we assumed Crank had no clue.

Truth – Crank was the smartest guy in the room and had just been playing us the whole semester. Brilliant, but lazy.

Crank had tremendous potential, but somehow didn’t manage to convert his potential to kinetic energy, except this one day in the lab when it suited him, and perhaps on the golf course.

It’s perplexing when smart people lack motivation.

The Summer after we graduated from college, Brad wrote me a letter (dated June 25, 1993). In it, he summarized the efforts various people put into our senior engineering project. In the letter, which I kept and recently re-read, Brad had name him:

Crank “Whoodini” – because everyone kept saying, “Where the hell is Crank!”4

I wonder what became of Crank. I haven’t heard about him since we left college. I do know this, Brad and I wrote the entire lab report that week without Crank contributing a single sentence. Why? Because Crank didn’t show up for our schedule time to work on it. Perhaps he had another golf game or a Vegas trip.

Two points here:

  1. You never know what people are capable of, given proper incentives.
  2. Some people are intelligent, have great Skills and are super Likeable, but they just don’t put in the Effort. This is why experienced managers will hire for Effort and intellectual curiosity over Skills. You can teach skills. Grit comes pre-wired.

So, while it was entertaining to have Crank as a lab partner, we likely wouldn’t select him as a partner for future lab classes, given the choice.

That said, without Crank deciding to chip in and complete the lab, we might still be there today trying to figure it out.

We knew other people in college who were absolutely brilliant, off-the-charts intelligent, but just couldn’t bother to finish their homework or show up to class to take the test.

Story #2 – High Skills, Low Effort, Likeable (but Different)

One evening while in college, I decided to help a friend. We’ll call him Chain (obviously not his real name, but kind of a cool name, unless your last name is “Saw” or “Smoker”).

Anyway, Chain lived on the same floor of the dorm as my roommate Brad and me.

One week, Chain said to me, “Dude, my grades are suffering.”

“Really?”

“I think I’m at risk of failing Calculus III.”

“That’s not good man,” I said.

This was curious because Chain was noticeably smarter than the rest of our engineering cohort (there were a few eccentrically intelligent guys in the group). Turns out, Chain’s problem wasn’t that he lacked an understanding of the material, he just couldn’t find the motivation to complete homework assignments.

No problem, I thought. I’ll help him get the homework done so he can pass the class.

“Chain, I’ll come over and work on Calc homework with you this week.”

I thought maybe working on it together would provide sufficient motivation to complete the assignment.

Chain and I stayed up late completing that assignment together in his room. He didn’t lack comprehension of the subject, just motivation to take the time to do the work and show all the proper steps the professor expected to see to grade the assignment. At 2:00am, I left Chain’s dorm room, feeling good about helping the guy wade through it to completion. I was tired. He was tired… but we got it done.

The next morning, Brad and I walked to our Calc III class at 9:00am and turned in our homework as we entered the class, along with everyone else. Well, everyone except Chain.

Chain didn’t bother to get out of bed to walk to class and turn in the homework… the assignment he had completed. Our professor had a rule: homework was due at the beginning of class. No late homework would be accepted. No exceptions. And here’s the deal. Chain knew this. We all knew this.

Life lesson – It’s difficult to help people who won’t help themselves.

If they don’t want to and are not willing to do what needs to be done, they simply won’t, no matter how much you try to help.

This is another example of a brilliant person who didn’t put in the Effort.

High in Skills. Low in Effort. Likable.

This isn’t the person you typically want on your group project.

Story #3 – Low Skills, High Effort, Likable

I coached my son’s soccer team for several seasons. One season, we had a player that hustled, but didn’t really know where to strategically position himself on the field during play. More precisely, he didn’t know where he should be next. No surprise, he was the youngest kid on the team, and hadn’t played soccer before.

I was speaking to his father after practice. The father noticed his son didn’t really have the game strategy figured out, which was true. He was running all over the place, but not really accomplishing much.

I replied, “I can teach strategy and ball skills. It’s difficult to teach hustle. The kid has speed, stamina, tries hard, and is eager to learn. I can work with that. Wait until the end of the season. He’ll be a completely different player. He already has the hustle within him. He can learn the rest.”

As predicted, he became considerably better over the course of just one season, almost a different player. I saw him practicing the next season, on a different team, (my son had moved up to the next age bracket, so I was no longer the coach). As predicted, this kid was now owning the field compared to the other players, half of which were one year younger than him, and full of their own potential.

I should also mention this player was “coachable”, meaning, he wanted to learn how to play better and readily demonstrated this by listening and implementing instructions, as best he could.

This is a good illustration for the rest of us, for adults at work, or kids at play…

Especially early in your career, Effort really counts. And it accumulates over time as the effort translates into new skills and experiences.

Of course, at some point, the Effort metric needs to transform into Execution & Results (and perhaps more Skills). If you are under 30, Effort is acknowledged. In your 30’s and especially 40+, if you are putting in the Effort, but are still not getting Results, your Competency may come into question.

3 – Likability

Likability is the most overlooked attribute of the three. Likability is crucial, especially if the goal is to be accepted by a group or team.

Story #4 – High Skills, Low Effort, Very Likable

I once worked with a guy named Bob (again, not his real name) at GE Appliances. Bob was on the engineering team with me. He was a creative thinker and always willing to help people with their projects. Over time, I noticed Bob consistently did not complete many of his own projects. They were somehow perpetually delayed.

Bob also took regular smoke breaks (unlike Chain), usually out on the factory floor. This was the 90’s, back when people could still smoke inside the building at work. Over the course of a few decades of chatting with people on the factory floor, Bob became friends with many of the unionized factory workers, the people who assembled the product – in this case, GE dishwashers.

Bob knew their backgrounds, where they lived, about their kids, and their hobbies. Bob was universally well-liked.

There’s a definite advantage to establishing solid relationships with the factory workers. They often already knew the solution to our engineering problem. We just needed to ask them if they had any ideas to solve whatever was the pressing issue at that moment. I was always surprised that a lot of engineers didn’t just ask the people working on the product for their input. I mean, at the end of the day, they were the ones implementing the solution. I figured it made sense to hear their ideas. If nothing else, they felt heard and part of the product development and improvement. Best case, they already had the solution.

We also needed their buy-in to implement whatever engineering change we made to the product or process. If they didn’t like our change, odds are, we would be re-doing the project anyway.

I found it was beneficial to ask Bob to walk out to the factory floor with me and talk to some people about a specific problem and potential solutions. Because Bob had cultivated good relationships, friendships, chemistry, and rapport over many years, he made project implementation easier for the rest of us.

This is an example of Likeability working in the group’s favor, but not favorable to the likable individual.

Interestingly, even though Bob was very Likeable, and even though he smoothed over many of our projects, GE did not value him as much as I thought they should have, because Bob had fewer tangible accomplishments of his own.

Bob was high in Likeability and high in Skills, but low in Effort. Perhaps, better management would have observed this and given Bob a new role and a title change to allow him to do what he did best – build relationships across functional groups – and capitalize on that unique skill where he was exceptionally talented. Instead, Bob consistently received subpar annual performance reviews, minimum raises, and thus felt less valued and less motivated. Too bad for Bob. He probably should have looked elsewhere for work. Maybe he eventually did. We lost touch.

The point here is Likability matters.

Bonus Discussion on Unlikability

Certain personality traits make people universally unlikable. Functional groups would do well to avoid anyone possessing these traits: malevolence, liars, hypocrites, narcissists, and people who are judgmental, selfish, or habitually negative. I’m sure there are others, but these are the big seven as far as I am concerned… in that it only takes one of these traits (not a combination of them) to make someone nearly unbearable to work with in a group.

This is a decent mental checklist to remember, because these are also people we would do well to limit our exposure to (or ideally avoid) in life in general, especially in close friendships or in a spouse.

The corollary is that we can value the opposite of each of these seven traits in our relationships.

Here are the opposite traits:

  1. Malevolent  |  Benevolent (kind)
  2. Liar  |  Honest
  3. Hypocrite  |  Genuine
  4. Narcissist  |  Humble
  5. Judgmental  |  Forgiving
  6. Selfish  |  Generous
  7. Negative  |  Positive

We should actively seek out people with these positive traits. This is also a good mental checklist for those we plan to do life with.5

Additional, Fundamental Attributes

In addition to Skills, Effort and Likability, we could have listed some additional attributes, but some things are so fundamental, they go without saying.

For example, Trustworthy is super important, obviously. But Trust is so elemental, it’s a given. Table stakes. It’s also nonnegotiable. If you can’t trust someone, none of the other attributes matter.

The Aptitude Matrix

The table below lists the various combinations of the three main attributes, ranging from “you are strong in them all” to “you are weak in one but strong in two” to “you are weak in two and only strong in one” to “you are weak in all three”. This gives us a total of eight possible scenarios to explore.

Of course, these three attributes are not binary (strong or weak). We each have a variable scale in each dimension. But to reduce the permutations, I’m limiting the matrix to only describe binary scenarios of “weak” or “strong” for each of the three attributes.

The first case (you are strong in all three) and the last case (you are weak in all three) are obvious scenarios and mentioned as the bookend cases above. It’s the other combinations that warrant further contemplation.

Two specific combinations are generally the most desirable candidates for any job or group.

Counterintuitively, one combination is actually worse than the “weak in all three attributes” case. Can you guess which one?

As you read through the table below, some specific people may come to mind. That’s because we have all worked with someone from each category. Don’t say their name out loud.

SkillsEffortLikabilityTitleCommentary (if this is you)
+++Rock StarPerfect. You should be in charge. Likely one day, you will be… especially if you work somewhere low in office politics.
++PorcupinePeople put up with you because you get things done quickly and correctly… and you have a solid work ethic. But let’s be honest, no one really wants to work with you. Your team is often the team no one really wants to be on because, while productive, it’s no fun… because of you, or others similar to you on the team. People in this category often find themselves working in isolation from others. They are good at what they do, but annoy too many people in the process. Productive, but not fun nor particularly enjoyable. Burnout is a common trait on teams with this person. Team member turnover is high.
++Eager New Hire
(if young)

Clueless
(if older)
You may lack skills, at least temporarily, but you are willing to work and learn. You might be a more junior person or someone new to a specific job/role, but you will ultimately do well with some time to acquire the deficient skills. In this position, the missing skills must be acquired before you fail too catastrophically. If young, find a mentor to quickly ramp up your skills because if you mini-fail (make smaller mistakes) too frequently, people question your abilities. And if you fail at scale, you’re done. The caveat here is that you must be teachable, willing, and eager to learn… AND be appreciative of the person who is taking their time to teach you (people who feel under-appreciated stop mentoring).

If you are mid-career or older and still fall in this category, some might think you are clueless because you never quite catch on. And they are probably right.
++Lazy ButtYou are not respected by your peers because you are lazy and consistently waste your potential. Some people may like to hang out with you after work. They like you personally (even though they know they can’t fundamentally count on you). But at work, they resent that you squander your natural abilities (your aptitude to work on what you are good at). You generally waste people’s time at work and can’t often be counted on to get your part of the project done, at least not on time. When you are on the project, others have to work harder to ensure your part also gets done, often by someone else on the team.
+Bitter Has BeenIt’s possible that you’re capable, in some fashion, but no one really knows it, because you never get anything done. You are both lazy and no one wants to work with you. This is not a good place to be in this matrix.
+Perpetual JuvenileYou never really grew up. You are lazy and have been for a long time. People might invite you to social gatherings because they like to hang out with you. You might even be the life of the party, but they don’t want you on their team. And, because work often bleeds into one’s social life, after a while, you may not get many party invitations either. Likely, you have spent too much time either playing computer games, watching movies, or on social media, and have let years pass without building the requisite skills that others your age managed to acquire while you were goofing off, not putting in the work. It seems innocuous at first, but these hours of missed practice add up. You are so far behind others in your age bracket, you’ll likely never catch up professionally. You are still salvageable, but don’t let this state persist. You will likely need to change jobs to start afresh without people judging you on your past performance. You will also likely need to put in excess hours to make up ground. Sometimes people are jostled out of this part of the matrix when they have their first child and realize that responsibility is now more important. Time to knuckle down and get to work more seriously.
Incompetent, Insufferable DonkeyYou destroy projects, groups and are generally bitter and cancerous to any organization. Yikes!
+Villain – Potentially MalevolentThis is the worst possible combination, worse than being weak in all three attributes, precisely because the Villain is not a Donkey. The Villain actively puts effort into being unlikable and ruining projects. Villains somehow screw up everything. It would be considerably better if they didn’t even try. Not only do Villains NOT create value, they destroy value in a group or organization… and do it efficiently, with gusto, at scale. The Villain has a history of making poor decisions while simultaneously annoying and frustrating others. Someone is required to step in and course correct the Villain’s work. Worse than lazy-incompetence is incompetence paired with Effort. This can be catastrophic. The Villain will likely be fired from most jobs, after short stints at the company. Even at large companies, HR knows the Villain by name.

Most hiring managers only want to hire from two of these eight categories: the Rock Star and the Eager New Hire. Everyone else is ultimately viewed as sub-optimal or a hiring mistake.

Surprisingly, of these 3 attributes, Skills, is the only trait you can be lacking and still be fully accepted into a group. Having Skills is ultimately a requirement to thrive within a functional group, but it’s not always an initial requirement. Skills can be taught if you demonstrate an active interest in learning and growing.

Interestingly, in no case can you lack two of the three attributes and do well.

Conclusion…

To be fully accepted into any group, you need to be Likable and to put in the Effort.

To state it more bluntly…

If you don’t put in the Effort or are habitually unLikable, the team doesn’t really want to work with you.

In some rare exceptions, groups will tolerate a lack in Likability for unusually high productivity from someone extremely talented in a narrow domain of expertise (extremely high on Skills, but perhaps wanting socially). These are often highly technical people with very specific skill sets, but perhaps they lack basic social skills. These people usually get pigeon-holed in the basement to work on challenging technical problems but are kept a safe distance from customers.

Side Note

There’s a difference between being “disagreeable” and being “unlikable”. Disagreeable people tend to bulldoze their way through things to get them done and completed in the way they want. They may be hard-headed, but still likable. Disagreeable people tend to speak their minds and not to let their need-to-be-liked get in the way of doing the hard work that needs to get done.

On work-related teams, leaders should prefer those who speak their minds. Disagreeable people are liked to the extent they are respected for their competence. We all know someone who is consistently blunt in manner. If they are also right most of the time (just willing to speak truth more loudly and more uncomfortably than the rest of us), we still accept them for the benefits of high-output production and for helping the group more quickly filter out the noise. Cut to the chase. State the fundamental problem. Voice the best solutions. Sometimes blunt spoken people are simply more pragmatic.

Story #5 – High Skills, High Effort, Less Likeable (at first)

I worked with another guy at GE, we’ll call him Tom, whose initial impression was perhaps slightly rude and too matter-of-fact. People’s first impression of Tom, including mine, was someone generally unapproachable. But it turns out, he was exceptionally nice, just blunt.

Truth, spoken bluntly, is still truth.

People may not like to hear the truth, especially if delivered bluntly, but they will generally accept the truth if it furthers the group’s progress toward their collective goal, even if it could have been said with more tact. People ultimately respect those who speak the accurate truth (even if they say things out loud that others are thinking but too socialized to say in a group setting). People who consistently speak the truth are valued.

At one point, Tom offered to give me a ride home from work for a week when I didn’t have use of our car for some reason, I don’t recall why. Perhaps it was in the shop or maybe my wife needed it at the time I would normally drive home from work. Regardless, I got to know Tom more personally by riding home with him every evening for a week, approximately 30 minutes per day.

Not only did he drive a bit out of his way to drop me off at my house, he also volunteered to do it without me asking (he heard I was without a vehicle). We had unusually deep and interesting conversations in the car. I know this, because some 27 years later, I still remember some of our conversations. That should say something. The least of which is that they were memorable.

At one point, I asked if he had kids. He was unusually vulnerable on this point.

“My wife and I really wanted kids, but we weren’t able.”

And in that moment, he thought out loud, almost to himself, “I guess I’ll never know what kind of dad I would have been.”

That’s a gut-wrenching and super vulnerable comment, near-the-soul of a person’s innermost feelings. And in that next moment of silence that paused the world, I thought to myself, “He would have been a good dad.”6

I would have wanted him on my team, or to be on his team.

So, there’s an example of someone who was perhaps perceived as somewhat disagreeable, but competent, likable, and hard-working, just blunter in his delivery.

Do I Want Them on My Team?

This is the question everyone on the team (the functional group) asks themselves about you.

The answer to this question, while likely not explicitly stated, is really the answer to a series of questions, mostly centering around the following:

  • Do you have the Skills for the position (competence)?
  • Are you willing to work and consistently put in the Effort?
  • Do I enjoy working with you (Likeability)?

IF the answer is YES to all or most of these points, then the team is pleased to have you join them.

As you join more teams, over time, you gain more team experience (with a greater variety of actors and circumstances). With more experience and exposure to different problem sets, you grow your individual and team skills. More skills lead to more opportunities, as more groups vie for you to join their team, because you are productive, and likable, and demonstrate grit.

As multiple groups compete to have you join their team, you are in higher demand. You are therefore more marketable, by definition. Being more marketable results in higher compensation, and more opportunities, which provides greater experiences – a positive feedback loop.

For this reason, successful people have more opportunities in front of them than they could possibly say yes to.

Conclusion

To make ourselves more marketable, to create more opportunities, we first practice being Likable. Then try hard (Effort). This gives us some base layer of Skills. We should then expose ourselves to new situations that cultivate additional Skills over time such that we continue to develop a passion for learning new Skills. We then use all three attributes to be productive and efficient and more enjoyable to those around us.

I should also mention, these things take time. Consistent habits to incrementally better these attributes will result in amazing improvements in your career (and life).

Your Comments

Let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree with my thinking on this topic, or if I have omitted a key ingredient. Even better, share a related story.


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FOOTNOTES:

  1. “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” A similar version of this quote is also attributed to Will Rogers.
  2. Note: Dysfunctional groups have different, more deviant value hierarchies. Although in abundance, dysfunctional groups are beyond the scope of this discussion… mostly because functional groups have a just a few common desirable traits that are readily definable. Dysfunctional group, however, can fall apart in seemingly infinite ways.
  3. The way you get better at communicating is exactly the way you get better at anything. You practice. A lot. No student should ask “When will I ever use this in the real world?”, when it concerns reading comprehension, writing succinctly, and speaking effectively and eloquently.
  4. A few months back, I opened my old box of letters I had kept in the attic. It contained all the letters anyone ever wrote me from 6th grade until now. I am throwing them away this year. Feels like I’m ripping part of my childhood away. And yet, I haven’t read them for 30-40 years until this year. I likely won’t read them again. Time to purge.
  5. If this list seems vaguely familiar, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
  6. Later in life, I would learn to say these things out loud. I have always wished I had said this to him that day. But I did not.

7 comments

  • Very thoughtful and informative article. Good advice for individuals, cooperations and especially managers. GOOD JOB Andy!

  • I am going to quote what my former college roommate said as she shared this on fb… “Andy Jones is the son of one of my college friends. He reflects her wisdom and much more.
    At first I thought I would send this to my granddaughters, but then decided I wanted their parents to read it also. Yet it’s too good not to share with all of my friends.”
    Audrey, one of the people that I so respect, said it well.

  • I would like to express my appreciation for this insightful article. Upon reflection and observation of my employees, I have noticed that several of the characteristics mentioned in the article are indeed present. In my professional opinion, a well-rounded team requires a diverse range of personalities and aptitudes. Such teams tend to achieve greater success compared to those composed of individuals with similar traits. They tend to lean and learn off each other. Great Job Andy! Thank you.

    • Samantha – thank you for reading this little blog in the corner of the internet… and for taking the time to leave an encouraging comment. Much appreciated.

  • Oh, I have worked with some of these types in past years! haha You hit the mark with your analysis. As usual, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Andy, I always love your blogs, and for various reasons, and I share many of them, but this one seems particularly valuable to share with all the young adults in my life. Thank you!

    • Christy – as always, thank you for your continued support of this blog experiment… where I get to think out loud, and force myself to complete disparate thoughts because someone like you might just read it. 🙂

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