Good old lessons in teamwork from an age-old fable The Co-worker And The Teammate
Working Together As A Team
by Elaine Scott
Once upon a time two coworkers, Bunnie and Torton had an argument about who was more productive. I’m the fastest worker. That’s not true. The fastest worker is me!
They decided to settle the argument with a little productivity competition. They agreed on a day and started off the competition. Ok, let’s see who’s more productive this week. We’ll see who can finish the project first. Fine!
Bunnie shot ahead and serviced several customers at one time for quite some time. Then seeing that she was far ahead of Torton, she thought she'd sit in the break room everyday and relax before going back to her desk. Poor guy! Even if I take lunch and slow down, he could never do the amount of work I have.
She sat in that break room and started her lunch and would close her eyes and fall asleep every day.
Well Torton plodding on, he satisfied more customers, assisted managers with reporting, and finished emerging as the undisputed champ.
Bunnie was called into the manager’s office and shown her productivity report and realized that she had lost the competition.
The moral of the story is that working at a slow and steady pace wins the race. This is the version of the story that we've all grown up with.
Bunnie was disappointed at losing the competition and she did some soul-searching. She realized that she'd lost the competition only because she had been overconfident, careless and took way too many breaks. If she had not gone against company policy and had taken things for granted, there's no way that Torton could have beaten her. Why did I lose the race?
So she challenged Torton to another competition. Torton agreed. Can we have another competition? Ok.
This time, Bunnie went all out and worked almost through lunch. She worked without stopping from start to finish. She won by several miles.
The moral of the story? Fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady . If you have two people in your organization, one slow, methodical and reliable, and the other fast and still reliable at what he/she does, the fast and reliable chap will consistently climb the organizational ladder faster than the slow, methodical chap. It's good to be slow and steady; but it's better to be fast and reliable .
Then Torton did some thinking this time, and realized that there's no way he can beat the Bunnie in the competition the way it was currently formatted. How can I can be just as productive as Bunnie ?
He thought for a while, and then challenged Bunnie to another competition, but on a slightly different approach. Bunnie agreed. Sure! Can we try this again? This time we’ll take a different approach.
They started off. In keeping with her self-made commitment to be consistently fast missing details along the way, Bunnie took off and ran at top speed until she was faced with a technical issue within the project plan. The finishing line was a couple of days away. Goal
Bunnie sat there wondering, “what am I going to do?” In the meantime Torton, who had worked in the tech department trundled along, resolved the technical issue handed in the project, continued walking and finished the competition. What should I do?
The moral of the story? First identify your core competency and then change the playing field to suit your core competency . In an organization, if you are a good speaker and have needed skills, make sure you create opportunities to give presentations that enable the senior management to notice you. If your strength is analysis, make sure you do some sort of research, make a report and send it upstairs. Working to your strengths will not only get you noticed, but will also create opportunities for growth and advancement .
Bunnie and Torton, by this time, had become pretty good co-workers and they did some thinking together. Both realized that the last project could have been run much better.
So they decided to run the next project as a team this time. Hi, buddy. How about doing our last race again? Great! I think we could do it much better, if we two help each other. Hi, buddy. How about doing the next project together?
They started off, and this time Torton would take care of any technical issues and Bunnie would handle the proof-reading to get the project completed.
There, Torton took over and swam across the conference room with Bunnie riding along.
Then at near completion Bunnie again took care of her responsibilities to help Torton with his. They reached the finishing line together. They both felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they'd felt earlier.
The moral of the story? It's good to be individually brilliant and to have strong core competencies; but unless you're able to work in a team and harness each other's core competencies, you'll always perform below par because there will always be situations at which you'll do poorly and someone else does well. Teamwork is mainly about situational leadership, letting the person with the relevant core competency for a situation take leadership .
There are more lessons to be learnt from this story. Note that neither Bunnie nor the Torton gave up after failures. The Bunnie decided to work harder and put in more effort after her failure. The Torton changed his strategy because he was already working as hard as he could. In life, when faced with failure, sometimes it is appropriate to work harder and put in more effort. Sometimes it is appropriate to change strategy and try something different. And sometimes it is appropriate to do both . The hare and the tortoise also learnt another vital lesson. When we stop competing against a rival and instead start competing against the situation, we perform far better.