The Advantages of Being Part of a Team

Part 1 of 2

Many years ago I knew someone who was one of the biggest names in the Kiruv Kerovim field. Surprisingly, his career was short. He told me that he was a “loner”, someone who works by himself, and that working alone became too difficult in this field. He told me that he worked by himself, because he believed that other people didn’t have the same passion, act with the same urgency, and didn’t have the same commitment for the truth. He wasn’t being arrogant. He was conveying the same sentiment that many people in the Kiruv Kerovim field believe.

However, this sentiment isn’t limited to the Kiruv Kerovim field. Many people, whether at work, or with family, often choose, either deliberately, or as a result of their personalities, to do things alone. When I was younger, I shared this same attitude. I believed that by working alone, in whatever project I was involved, I could control the quality of the project better, than if others, who didn’t share my passion for the project, joined me.

Many people don’t work with their family, insist on making their own decisions, and then try to figure out how to implement them alone. Whether, or not, they’re married, some children won’t take advice from their parents. Sometimes they’ll ask for advice, hoping it’ll be the same decision that they had already made, and then they’ll act contrary to it. Nevertheless, they’ll expect their parents to help them succeed using the advice with which their parents disagreed, and they’re shocked when they won’t help. The children consider their parents lack of helping, to be a lack of family loyalty.

After a while I realized that working alone offered me short term advantages but, in the long run, it cost me more than I gained. Since many people find it difficult to work with others, I’d like to list the reasons people should work with others, even if they believe that, in some way, they’re compromising:

1) People don’t want to relinquish control. Working with others requires people to “give in”, even when they “know” that they’re right. When some people try to bring a team together they aren’t aware that, despite their belief that they’re looking for a team to work with them, they really want a team to work for them. Team members will immediately sense this, and leave the team. This will often cause those who created the team to become resentful, and their families, and personal lives, will often begin to unravel.

2) People should be careful before concluding that “no one understands what I’m going through”. In many cases, people do understand, but they disagree with the conclusion. People who haven’t succeeded in life should be very cautious about “deciding” that others don’t understand them. It’s more likely that their claim to understand their challenge better than others, is inaccurate.

3) People who act alone don’t usually appreciate how they’re perceived by others. People that try to live their lives without the help of others, are seen as arrogant if they’re successful, and hopeless if they aren’t. When they finally ask others for help, they’re unaware that they must first create a relationship, something that they may believe already exists.

This last point is important. People can’t succeed in life if their community doesn’t think well of them. Asking advice, and working with others, has ancillary value, because people who don’t take the initiative to partner with others, won’t receive opportunities (e.g. jobs, Shidduchim, business opportunities, or general advice). When people are respected, they can achieve miracles; without respect, most people never seem to get anything right.

4) Most people will not want to help others, if they weren’t part of the decision process. What would be even more offensive is if they were asked to be a part of the decision process, but were then ignored, or bullied, into agreeing to a decision. Certainly, no one will help, if they’re asked to do something with which they morally disagree, or believe, is counterproductive to their goal. Letting others “in” may compromise the quality of the decision, and implementation, but the resources that others can bring with them will most often increase the quality of the result.

Working with others is also important in the most mundane of areas. People, such as in my own community, who live in a small community, should appreciate that they may have to Daven at a time which may “make no sense” to them, and that their schedules, and sometimes those of their families, are decided by the wishes of others, even though it may inconvenience them. That’s also part of working together with others.

5) Working alone may cause people to have a “back against the wall” mentality, and will often cause them to make desperate decisions, convinced, and resentful, that no one cares about them. It’s at that time, when they find themselves alone, and making desperate decisions, that they should pause, and reconsider, their unwillingness to create a team to be involved in their decisions.  

I’ve found that it requires character to be willing, and able, to allow a team into one’s life. They must be confident enough to acknowledge that other people may know more than they do. They must be disciplined enough to act in a manner contrary to what they think is best for them. They’ll also have to become the type of people in whom others will want to “invest”.

I’ve learned to lean on others, both organizationally (staff members who don’t always follow through), and in my personal life. When my children were going through a difficult phase I created a team. It consisted of mentors, Rabbeim, siblings, and anyone else who cared. One of them was designated as the team leader and, often, it wasn’t me. I, obediently, followed whatever the agreed upon plan was, even if I had a dissenting view. I can confidently say that the team’s decisions were correct often enough (my decisions also aren’t always correct), and the advantages that the team brought, significantly improved my family.

A willingness to be bound by a team’s decisions requires a lot of maturity. It requires people to graciously accept the bad with the good. This is something that people should become accustomed to throughout their lives, such as with tenants (who may be quiet, and respectful, but pay a little late), spouses (who, like all people, have things we like, and dislike), and with everyone else with whom we interact. Teams aren’t any different, and will bring both good and bad into the person’s life.

Creating an effective team is extremely difficult, because it makes an assumption that people are surrounded, or can find, a group of people who live balanced lives, care about them, are smart, are committed, and are capable of sustaining their commitment to help them. Such people aren’t easy to find. Nevertheless, once such people have been found, a team can be created. Search diligently, search with wisdom, and search honestly. The right team may take months to find, but it’ll be worth the search.