Growing up, my brother, who is seven years older than me, would play pick-up games of tackle football at the local school with his friends. They were almost more interested in the ‘hard hits’ on each other as scoring. Often, they would invite me to play. It is important to note, that even when I graduated college, I was still only five feet 6 and 130 pounds, so the disparity in size at age 10 was massive. My brother’s friends loved to see ‘Little Sturtz’ show up to play because they relished the thought of crushing me. My saving grace was that I have always been fast. Whether it was out of fear or pure speed, as soon as I had the ball, it was time to run like the wind or face certain death at the hands of a 17-year old giant. And I did. I also knew that I was not going to tackle the ‘big kids’, so my best strategy was to grab on and slow them down until another ‘big kid’ came along to finish the tackle.
I don’t play tackle football anymore. But the lesson that I learned in those games was to ‘play from your strength’ and let my team-mates do the same. I’m a very strong accounting and finance professional. When I sit with my colleagues at work, I can look around the table and know that I can outperform any of them in those realms. But I also know that their acumen as marketers, chefs, or other profession they are in far outpaces my abilities.
Earlier in my career, as Director of Finance for a casino, my General Manager was a very strong marketer. He looked at operational strategies very differently than me and we would have glorious ‘discussions’ (using the term loosely) about which marketing plan was most effective. He argued from the marketing side; me from the finance side. In the end, we usually came out of the conversation with a better strategy than either of us had come in with. Afterwards, we could head to the bar and have a cocktail. Again; we disagreed as he preferred cinnamon whiskey to my beer. The point is; we played from our strengths and, as a team, our property performance outpaced the competition as well as the rest of the company.
As you finish reading this, think about your ‘team’. Maybe its your work team, volunteer organization team, or your family team. What strengths do you bring that your teammates lack? What do they bring to the table that you lack? Don’t be afraid to accept this balance of strengths and weaknesses. Instead, embrace the gaps and work together. Then have a beer (or cinnamon whiskey).