The Power of Contribution in the Circle

James Anthony Ellis
Legacy Magazine Editor

If there is one element required at a great team meeting, or any type of meeting for that matter, it is the concept of “contribution.”

For me, the bottom line on successful teams is this: 

  • Committed men create a men’s team.
  • Contributing men create a men’s team meeting. 

And to the degree we hold high both elements – commitment and contribution – the higher we all rise as men, as teammates, as family leaders, as community members, as well as members of a global humanity.

I just had a team meeting last night (June 25) wherein the team leader dropped the ball and had ZERO planned for the meeting. That meant that the rest of us – all eight – had to come up with the aspects of the meeting on the spot. Our stand-in leader had us split up into four pairs of two that would each devise an aspect of the agenda. One pair came up with an exercise, another a ritual, another a check-in, and another a fun activity. 

You’ll never guess what transpired … one of the best meetings ever. From nothing planned to everything mapped out – in full participation. In full contribution. 

Last night, we all realized that when every team player gives of himself to the collective it makes the collective stronger, richer, more powerful, more unified. When everyone participates, there is full momentum towards success. No loose ends, no passive “jerks on the bus,” no drains on the circle’s empowerment. 

Whenever I think of the power of contribution for a men’s team, I imagine a sports team with a powerful coach bringing forth a culture in which teammates are expected to contribute no matter what.

Picture this: First day of tryouts on the football field. Barking coach comes out with a focused context. “If you want to be on this team, then you will contribute to it, to help the team be stronger and to give value to you as a teammate. You will be contributing, and you will be giving your best. If you have a problem with that, there is the door.”

Can you imagine a player trying to make the roster, responding to a coach demanding contribution, saying in response: “Well, I don’t know. Maybe I can contribute sometimes, when I feel like it, and only during the games I can play in.” 

Bye! There is the door. 

We may have all experienced those teammates – living in problem, not give to the collective, holding back, only showing up when there was something in it for them – who brought down the team in a very real way. 

And we have experienced the uplift when a teammate, or when we ourselves, gave our best to the circle. Power. Energy. Momentum. Bam.

To ensure all players played full out in the past, many of my men’s teams have carried the standard: “Each man contributes to each team meeting in his own way so that his presence is felt.”

Can you imagine the layers of value when men hold high this agreement with each other? Can you sense the culture created here?

The standard, with so many subtle layers of uplift, powerfully accomplishes these results:

  • It supports men to operate at a team level, doing what they can for the good of the team – whether they are physically present or not. 
  • It intrinsically gives value to each man since his contribution matters, unlike other areas of our world which may infer that our contribution is not that important. 
  • It has men practice the invaluable lesson that we can truly be present for our wives, girlfriends, children, parents and siblings … even if we are away from them physically.   
  • It subtly supports a culture where men’s presence counts, overturning a past for those who ever experienced an absentee father who didn’t validate his worth with his presence.
  • It demolishes the current trend in our society where the “disposable male” is being devalued, demeaned, and discarded: in movies, media, divorce court, war, and in what is now known as the “Boy Crisis.” 
  • The standard is a cure for the lethargy and individual selfishness that kills teams, removing this knee-jerk response from some jerks: “If I’m not there and I won’t get anything, then I don’t have to do anything.”
  • It dismantles the careless attitude of “When I’m gone, you are out of sight and out of mind,” which can lead to an individual level reality, potentially putting the man at risk in other areas of his life. 
  • It makes a team a real team where teammates would be missed without them, where teammates would want to contribute to a collective success.

Damn, that’s a pretty damn powerful standard. 

Now, there has been pushback a couple of times from men who didn’t want to contribute to each meeting, especially if they were out of town. I believe those with a problem here either felt forced to give, were falling into laziness, didn’t comprehend the depth and power of the standard, or on a subconscious level didn’t believe they or their presence mattered that much. 

Either way, ouch! What a loss of an opportunity to expand beyond the individual level and find the value in a team level mentality that celebrates what we all give to the circle. 

Those who didn’t have a problem with the standard found a way to make it happen, even when they were out of town, as they planned out a few ways to contribute prior to leaving. I recall one man laid out three weeks of activity, no problem, even buying the team a meal at an Ocean Beach restaurant. Such a gift this was, on levels seen and unseen. 

Imagine a team with men who mainly considered: 

  • What can I give to the collective? 
  • How can I give my best to the circle? 
  • How can I make all of my commitments work for myself, my family, my work, and my men? 

These men living at this level have climbed higher on the chart of life, wherein they serve not just themselves but a larger purpose.

These men realize their lack of presence can impact any collective – families, workmates, a potluck that really needed your famous spinach dip. 

These men consider the idea of sending a gift and a voicemail to their nephew even though they couldn’t make the graduation in person.

These men don’t screw up their marriage by disappearing on their wives and kids while on a work trip or even into a home office, later wondering why there is such disharmony in the house.

These men recognize the need to be prepared proactively, just as they would prepare their home, mail, and garden to be taken care of while away.

These men give their best to contribute to their men’s team, knowing their exuberance, passion and balls-out effort will make a difference. 

These men hold “standards” not as “rules’ that are forced upon us in a disempowering way to possibly get us in trouble, but rather as “agreements” between teammates to raise the bar and uphold a winning culture.

These men keep teams cohesive – aligned as one, halting that slow drift in which teams experience high disconnect and high isolation and then low attendance and low energy.

These men show up for try outs, practice and games fighting to get out onto the playing field, making their fans, their coach and themselves proud. 

Huh. Imagine if there was no contribution at a men’s team meeting. We’d all just stand there and stare at each other, most likely fading into meaningless side conversations or stray inner thoughts of curiosity about what was streaming later on Netflix. 

That isn’t what happened with my team last night. No, even without a preplanned agenda and purpose, we all came up with what we needed. All of us. Together. In the spirit of giving our best for the good of the team. It was epic.  

Each team player within MDI and other circles has an opportunity here: to be a star player pulling for a team to succeed on all levels, to practice doing our best, to hold others to their best, to succeed where we heretofore thought we could not. To go beyond our preconceived ideas and limits and make magic happen. We can practice being prepared, giving to the collective no matter what, holding a “no problem” attitude, and living the highest purpose and most broad context possible.

It’s our choice. And our success.

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