Different Teams, Different Roles

12 02 2013

One of the most compelling lessons learned in competitive sports, even at thirteen years of age,  is to understand one’s role and to flourish within it while bringing the team towards greatness.

Imagine the fortunate experience to be part of several teams during one season where different roles are expected.  I find it invaluable that children have a chance to learn so much at such a young age.  Here is an example of a seventh grader I know.  He is a very talented basketball player, loves the game and dreams of playing in college.  This year, he is participating on three teams:  (Can you relate to his role on any of the teams I describe below?  Which one best describes your current position?  What can you do to enhance your role?)

7th grade basketball

Team 1:  Town recreational basketball (Are you dominant in your career role?)

As the most dominant player, he has a role and talent to carry the team.  He typically scores 60% of the team’s points, guards the opponent’s best player and loves the responsibility of being “the man” at these games.  With each game, his confidence grows as his results reinforce his role.  He loves playing on this team because he has a chance to do things he would never do if he were playing on a team where his role was more defined and limited.  This is the best role for an independent visionary leader.

Team 2:  YMCA Travel basketball (Are you working with talented colleagues and expected to deliver your best to make the team win?)

As the starting forward on this team and a solid contributor, he is a key member of a talented team and plays his role accordingly.  He has opportunities to contribute with a strong presence both offensively as well as defensively.  He scores when he can and plays defense against quality opponents.  His team is a strong unit and works well together.  The team’s talent pool is very balanced as there is no dominant player.  This role give the team player the greatest opportunity.

Team 3:  Varsity basketball for private Middle School (Are you perceived to be overmatched?  Is it necessary for you to prove yourself and gain additional skills?)

As the starting center on this team, he is one of a few boys who was selected on Varsity in spite of the fact that he is two years younger than his veteran teammates. The dominant players on the team are guards (mostly in higher grades) and the coach has designed the vast majority of plays around these players. He is a role player on offense and must assert himself by setting picks for his teammates and playing strong defense.  He has not yet established himself as an offensive option on this team.  The leader in this scenario plays an important role but is searching for the position he desires among the team.

Regardless of the team he is on, he is valuable and plays his role well.  He works hard to deliver what is expected of him yet is acutely aware that he strives to build upon his reputation by delivering results in all areas when given the opportunity.  When he shares his concerns with me about his role on the varsity school team (he wants to do more on the team), I make it clear to him that he must give the team what they expect of him and look for opportunities to give more.  Once he consistently gives the team more results, those results will soon be expected and the opportunity will present itself to gain additional responsibility.

corporate team

Life on the basketball court often mirrors life under the florescent lights of the corporate playing field.  Today, perhaps we need to learn a lesson from a young man rather than give him a lesson.  We are fortunate to have a chance to apply it tomorrow at “the office”.  Good luck!




5 responses

12 02 2013
Mark Sessel

It seems that the business superstar needs to know how to fulfill all of these roles depending on their skills, the team’s dynamic, and the specific situation.

12 02 2013
David Sussman

Exactly Mark. It’s a lesson learned as children. But a lesson that is never to late to pick up and apply. Thanks for your thoughts.

12 02 2013
Trever Barker

Dave – Your comparison between sports and business (I will say marketing, as this is what I am used to) are excellent as you make an important point that very little will be achieved without teamwork.

12 02 2013

We’ve become increasingly accustomed in the business world to the idea of wearing multiple hats and doing more with less. Thanks for offering a terrific analogy on how playing different roles on different teams doesn’t diminish the individual – in fact it’s the contrary. Learning to play different roles on different teams makes for not only a better team, but a more well-rounded individual.

18 02 2013
david s. gottlieb,dmd

Your ability to take a sports scenario and express it in the terms of a tightly run business or professional environment is compelling. It allows an opportunity to see how one individual who is making his/her best effort to the improvement of the organization plays such a pivotal role. Never underestimate the importance of giving your all to the success of the whole team.

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