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Overworked and Undercontributing?

Time to come back to life and add your full value

Woman slumped over photocopier sleeping

Are you adding your full value?

My morning routine is crazy. Four people, tiny bathroom. We’ve got one fashion plate who must choose the perfect outfit and one sleepy head who doesn’t like breakfast. Once we get the whole gang moving in our own version of The Amazing Race: Family Edition, my husband graciously deposits me at the subway where a few hundred strangers and I make our way into the core.

By the time I get to work, I feel like I’ve already put in a day. From the looks of the people sitting around the table at my client’s offices—so have they. As everyone chats around the coffee pot, it’s clear that most stayed up late to make a dent in the endless task list (isn’t that how it goes…meetings all day, work at night?)

We try to do our work well. We strive to be present as partners and parents. We squeeze in time for exercise and community. And here’s the problem, we’ve got no gas in the tank for our teams.

We go to a team meeting, show up, report in, and tune out. We’ve reduced our team interactions to monotonous show and tell sessions of everybody’s work—exactly the opposite of what our teams should be paying attention to!

Teams aren’t supposed to be for reporting out of individual work. Teams are supposed to be for doing things that can only be done together. They are about collaboration, synergy, and creating a whole greater than the sum of the parts. To get that, you’re going to have to contribute a lot more than just what it says on your job description. You need to add your full value.

Hidden Treasures

My colleague and I were with the leaders in a large hospital. Most of these people had known each other for years. As they introduced themselves, they chose to comment on experiences that had shaped them. One had been a dancer and had learned from this a level of discipline that served her well. We also had an Olympic athlete and an ultra- marathoner (100 miles!). Some had worked in other industries; at least one had spent time in politics. What fascinated me was how many of these amazing backgrounds were unknown to their colleagues. Worse, the richness of their experience was clearly not being accessed by their team.

Have you ever had this experience? Have you ever learned that a team member has hidden talents? What about you? Are you underplaying your strengths? Are you holding back at work?

Add Your Full Value

Adding your full value means bringing value to the team from not only your technical expertise, but from all of your experiences.

Did you work in a different industry? That experience might help you understand your suppliers or partners. Are you a young working parent? If your organization sells consumer products, you can share insights about customers like you. Does your religious or charitable activity give you access to important and influential members of the community? Introduce your teammates to them.

It's not only experience that adds value, it's also your style and your strengths. Teams need diversity to be effective. In a team of strategic thinkers, someone needs to bring an operational perspective. Maybe you are more of a risk taker--many teams need someone to say that something is possible or they just stay stuck in the way they have always done things. Maybe your empathy helps you anticipate the impact of decisions: If so, share your thoughts to help your team members influence more effectively.

I encourage you to share this post with one teammate and to learn a little more about the experiences, relationships, and talents that make them who they are. Then share your stories with them. I'd love to hear what you learn.

You never know where you will be able to add value when you really show up. But you are more than a supply chain manager, or accountant, or digital marketer. Add your full value.

This is the second in a series of blogs based on my new book You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done. See others in the series:

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