Jack Brown MDI Contributor
I’ve been on a men’s team for going on three decades. I believe I have matured into a good teammate, but I have to say it has been a process. My teams and teammates have provided me enormous opportunities to become a better man.
As men, we all started out as boys and the elements of a good teammate are not natural to boys. As a matter of fact, they are often contrary to our natural instincts. While boys create bonds with other boys that often last a lifetime, boys still have to be coached, taught and modeled the essence of teamwork and how to create a good or great team.
Without this and sometimes in spite of it, we live our lives “solo,” believing that ultimately we can only depend on ourselves. Our instinct as boys is to survive, fit in, avoid being picked on but also to emerge! In this case “emerge” means to safely distinguish ourselves from the other boys. To become good at something, find our bragging rights, allow our egos healthy growth. We envision ourselves as heroes and we want the accolades that come with it. We want to be the best, the smartest, the most talented, the strongest, funniest, coolest or even the strangest or weirdest! Whatever it takes to distinguish ourselves.
We carry this into our adulthood. We compete. Most of us compete for jobs, girlfriends, promotions, opportunities, ranks and … (fill in your blank). Why? Because we were taught to survive, get ahead, fight for what we want. And there is nothing wrong with this. It’s just not what makes a great teammate or the elements of a great team.
Maybe the best thing about MDI is while we teach leadership, we simultaneously teach “followship.” When the Dog Soldiers of the Southeast region responded to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, we brought with us “followship.” Given a task, we quickly chose a leader, aligned behind him and followed his orders. We set aside our egos and our “better way” of getting the task done to make him (and ourselves) successful! We learned this in our Leadership Training and we practice it on our teams. I only observed the men from fire departments who seemed to work with this same coordination and determination. The task at hand was being attacked by one. One team and not many individuals.
On my journey to maturity (an on going effort), I’ve had to move away from my boyhood fears of not fitting in and in doing so find the confidence to be who I am. So for me the most important element of a good team and a good teammate is trust. To both trust other men and to be trustworthy requires a man to allow himself to be vulnerable. To drop his mask. Not easy for many of us. By learning to drop our masks, we learn, and in turn, experience trust. The more I drop my mask the more my teammates experience the real me and the more I see who I am. The more I see and accept who I am, the better man and teammate I become.
It’s a great process. My team holds me accountable, expects me to be committed, and holds the mirror up so I can see more and more of who I am and with that who I can become. MDI sets a framework where men can come and not fear being judged. Over time a man will begin to see himself, learn who he is and work at who he wants to become.
Trust, accountability, commitment, the ability to work through conflicts and accept our differences and to also have fun makes a group of men a team. The better we are at this, the more rigorous, the more candid we are with each other. This is what makes a great team.
My team and the many teams before have made me a better man.