Tag: team player


Good day, team.

This past week, an article I read in The New York Times by David Brooks got me thinking about self-orientation. The piece was about Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriquez and how, over the years, he has become more and more preoccupied with himself and his image. This week’s challenge looks at how this type of self-orientation can separate a person from his or her team, friends and family. These folks become the center of their own universe and forget that anyone else is around.

Self-preoccupation didn’t happen to Rodriguez naturally. It happened after promoters, agents and owners saw a rare talent and the money it could generate. Here’s part of what Brooks wrote:

“Rodriguez was a baseball prodigy from his earliest years. He batted an insane .505 his senior year in high school and had as many as 100 scouts at every game. When he was drafted first overall by the Seattle Mariners, he hired the super agent Scott Boras, who damaged whatever chances Rodriguez had of becoming a normal human being.

“Boras turned him into a corporate entity. In her book, ‘A-Rod,’ Selena Roberts reported that in the middle of his first contract negotiations, Boras had Rodriguez read a statement accusing the Mariners of being ‘low class.’ In other words, he was told to attack his first organization in order to squeeze a few dollars out of them. From the beginning, Rodriguez’s preoccupation was not with team, it was with self.

“By the time Rodriguez became a free agent, he was the marketing facade of A-Rod Inc. When negotiating with the New York Mets, Rodriguez’s handlers asked for the use of a private jet, a special hotel suite when on the road and a personal marketing staff. By the tine he reached the Texas Rangers, according to Roberts, a clubhouse attendant was required to put a dab of toothpaste on his toothbrush before every game.”

All of this led to an overly inflated ego that is insatiable in its quest for more and more attention. At the same time, Rodriguez has become overly sensitive to that attention. Ironically, the very special talents that lead him down this road are now threatened by his inability to deal with them. He has developed a reputation for caring more about his personal statistics than his team winning.

How does this happen to people? How do people become so overly concerned with their own performance, their own status (such as job titles and how high up they are on an organizational chart), their own ideas and even their own daily lives that they separate themselves and lose their ability to connect with others?

Like Rodriquez, many people with special talents get targeted by others who want to turn them into superstars. The great injustice is that once they become stars, it’s harder to relate to the team or the family. This alienation makes it more difficult to access their special talents, and the constant preoccupation with themselves continues to separate them. Being special can be a lonely place, and we often see superstars turn to drugs and alcohol to numb that feeling of being disconnected and alone.

As Brooks so aptly put it:

“My theory would be that self-preoccupied people have trouble seeing that their natural abilities come from outside themselves and can only be developed when directed toward something else outside themselves. Enclosed in self, they come to believe that their talents come from self, are the self. They have no outside criteria that tell them what their talents are for or when they are sufficient. Locked in a cycle of insecurity and attempted self-validation, their talents are never enough, and they end up devouring what they have been given.”

In the work environment, it’s difficult to trust people who constantly frame events in relation to how they affect them personally rather than how they affect the overall team. They are so self-oriented that we can’t trust them to be there for us when we need them. Part of good teamwork is sacrificing our own gains so that the team wins in the end. And part of belonging to the whole is knowing that we are only one part of that whole and not the entire thing.

This week, try to witness your own level of self-orientation. Are your unique talents and experience balanced with the talents of others on the team? Do you find that you dominate meetings by showcasing your talents? Do you give others the space to showcase theirs? How much time do you spend thinking about yourself during the day? Do you interpret almost all situations from the perspective of how this affects you rather than the broader view of the team? Do you compete with your peers to be the fastest, smartest, most creative and innovative, or most powerful? Do you throw others under the bus to gain the most advantage?

Each of us has sense of self. That self is often defined by the world around us and the people with whom we have the most interactions. As we age and acquire more wisdom, we see that these definitions may be pretty good when it comes to describing how we show up in the world, but they don’t really define our true selves at all. How we appear to others becomes less important. Rather than allow others to define whether we’re good or successful or special, we eventually learn to access our true selves. When we are in touch with our true self, we can more readily share ourselves with others. We revel in a sense of belonging and naturally desire to be true to what’s important to the group overall. When we alienate ourselves, we ultimately suffer. When we become overly preoccupied with our own concerns, our ability to embrace other people disappears.

People who have healthy self-esteem naturally value other people’s sense of self as well. Kindness and consideration of others predominates. These people consider what their team members need to be more successful. They encourage their team to be more considerate of other teams within the company, knowing that if they all win, the company wins. They think of ways to step back to allow others to shine.

Try experimenting with your self-orientation this week by intentionally putting yourself in your teammates’ shoes. What’s challenging for them and how can you help? How are they feeling about the project and what does it look like from their perspective? How can you reach beyond your own concerns to help a family member or friend?

William B. Given, Jr., the famous business author wrote:

“Whenever you are too selfishly looking out for your own interest, you have only one person working for you — yourself. When you help a dozen other people with their problems, you have a dozen people working with you.”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

5/20/12 “Separation”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about separation. That is, how we sometimes separate ourselves from others, including family, co-workers and friends.

All of us experience this sense of being separate from time to time. Sometimes it’s caused by a succession of failures, too much stress, or being out of sorts with family members or friends. Whatever the cause, when I feel disconnected from others, it is frequently accompanied by a state of depression and I experience a lot of negative thoughts:

“No one understands me.”
“Why do I have to do this all on my own?”
“No one likes me, so it won’t matter whether I show up or not.”
“I’m such a failure, I can’t do anything right.”
“I’m really an impostor here; if people really knew that I have no idea what I’m doing, I’d never have a job.”

All of these thoughts have the ring of separation to them. In these moments, I see myself as separate from the team, from my family, from my friends. I’m not like them. I’m different in some way.

When I work with teams, I often notice that someone on the team is separating themselves from the others. They may do this by not responding when asked to participate or by having the attitude that they know more than the rest of the group. If someone acts in an antagonistic or provocative way, it can separate him or her from the team. At the same time, feeling like a victim can separate a person from the whole. Even leaders who see themselves as powerful or authoritative can begin to feel separate from their teams. Whether a person sees him- or herself as special or insignificant, the results can be the same: separation.

This feeling of separateness is an illusion. Although we play different roles in our lives, we are all connected to one another. When we forget our connection to all other living beings, we start to get into trouble. I may think the Japanese tsunami last year was an event separate from me, but the remaining debris from that tsunami’s aftermath is about to show up on our west coast shores. I can judge my neighbors and feel like I’m better or smarter — until I need to call them for help. Will they judge me in return in that moment? What about when a fellow team member needs to pick up some of my job responsibilities when I’m out sick? I hope he or she won’t be feeling separate from me and will be able to see the importance of supporting me when I need it. Every action we take impacts someone else somewhere, somehow.

The best metaphor for this is the ocean and the wave. In our various roles, we show up as a wave. Sometimes waves are big and powerful, and other times, they roll calmly onto the shore. Waves can be bright and beautiful with white, frothy crests and deep blue colors or dark and grey with a slick surface. Just as we can be bright and beautiful or dark and grey, our various personalities show up as waves. Believing that our wave is separated from all the other waves can make us feel alone — but in reality, we are part of a huge ocean. That ocean is made of water and the water is what makes up the waves. Without the ocean, there is no wave. Without the rest of humanity, there is no one person.

This week, see whether you’ve separated yourself from others in some part of your life. Do you pride yourself in being different and, in turn, think you’re better than or less than others? How about with your family — are you the black sheep or the odd one or the best one? Do you separate yourself by spending most of your time alone? Do you not pay attention to others when you’re in a meeting and separate your attention away from everyone else? When you resist participating, what is it in you that thinks you’re not connected to everyone else? If you envision a sports team playing on the field, what if someone kicks the ball to their teammate and their teammate decides not to play anymore? Doesn’t the game stop? We are indeed each unique individuals, but it’s important to understand that what makes us special doesn’t need to separate us from others. In fact, that’s what makes teams so great — all of those unique qualities and strengths directed toward a common goal.

This week, appreciate how connected you are to others in all things. We were not put here to be alone and belonging to each other is one of the great gifts of humankind.

Have a good week,


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 422-9249