Be my Teammate - Valentines Day(Hey – heads up…I got a great feedback from a friend on this post.  To respect his need for privacy, I’ve added it below myself.  But, this is a fine example of how good friends air differences and still respect each other.)

Today is Valentine’s Day, both a celebrated and loathed holiday. Ideally, it is a day to celebrate and recognize the close relationships you have in your life…which is fantastic.

Some people think this day is basically a way for the greeting card, flower, chocolate and jewelry businesses to have a mid-winter boost in sales.

I would like to offer a third option to see what we can learn from this cupid crazy custom to help us be better team leaders.

How I’ve seen Valentines Day through the Years

Here’s what I learned, and, admittedly, I learned it kicking and screaming.

Ok – I’m a baby boomer. Yes, it’s Paul here.  Back in the 60’s and 70’s, my mom would take us to the Woolworth’s and we’d get these cheesy, perforated sheets of cards. We’d fill out a handful, take them to school and give to those we wanted to. Some kids would give one to everyone, but most did what we did… a handful to selected friends. So, of course, the kids in the class did not get the same number of cards.  Folks like me didn’t get as many as that guy who was the grade school quarterback or the girl who was everyone’s best friend. Many of us got to experience the Charlie Brown empty mailbox moment, hoping for the Valentine’s card from the red haired girl.  And yes, when I looked at it that way, it was a bit painful.

Now move the timeline to a few decades later.  As a parent, I was a bit grumpy about the policy in my kids’ schools that they had to have a Valentine, or, since it wasn’t just a perforated card anymore, a Valentine treat, for everyone. I thought, “What?!” – how dare we legislate that everyone has to be included in my kids’ “be my valentine” card distribution!  Ugh, I thought.

Thankfully, I re-engaged my proactive mindset, and asset based thinking. Those servant leadership traits get me out of mindset jams regularly.

“Valentines for all” Leadership

I now see how what I thought was a legislated attempt to force our kids to be inclusive is…EXACTLY WHAT I NEED TO DO AS A TEAM LEADER!

Face it. Most of the time, the team gets handed to us as team leaders. Am I buddies with everyone? Not really. Do I have a few on my team that, given my druthers, I’d have left off the roster? Sadly, yes.

But as a team leader, does this give me permission to play favorites? NO.

The Valentine Box as Leadership Training

This seemingly crazy policy, that the kids need to have a valentine for everyone, (and this is where I eat humble pie) is actually a pretty good training ground for future team leaders. Why?

My hope is that when we are encouraged (or forced) as kids to be more inclusive, to consider everyone in a positive light and potential valentine. Then, maybe, I’ll start looking for the good in each person, rather than focusing on my current beliefs that he or she is not my friend, has funny hair, is a goofball, or …ok, that list is long enough, you get my point. In other words, I’ll look at all of them as teammates.

Beliefs show in actions

As a leader, your beliefs about the work, your team, the customer, the upper management, etc. are known by those around you eventually (if not right away). There is wisdom in understanding that “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34b.  Whatever your beliefs are, they are affecting your team and the performance of the project because it comes out in how you interact.  If you have a sour outlook on a team member, that will affect that person’s performance and how the rest of the team interacts with him or her.

Having a “Valentines for all” outlook with your team means that you are looking for the skills, value, talents that each teammate can provide to the team.  Team Leaders have to believe this to actually see it.  Belief comes before seeing; it won’t be “I’ll know it when I see it.”

When you take the asset based approach, your heart (your thoughts) change and then your actions change.  And that’s when your team will know they are valued, when they actually are valued for what they bring to the table.

As the box of chocolates slowly disappears and the flowers fade, think about how you can better believe in each person on your team as one whom you’d happily cut out a silly heart themed card for in order to help them to feel a bit more connected, valued and respected. It will change your team!

—-  Feedback ——

A very good friend sent me an email response to this blog.
I’d like to point out how this is how good friends treat each other when they have a difference of opinion. Why?  because he shows he’s ready to listen to me, e.g. “Just a conversation starter.”
I am posting this for him to respect his need for privacy. Here it is:

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Ok Paul – I just read your Valentine’s Day blog. Never thought I ‘d say this, but: You’ve gone off the deep end.

The whole “inclusion” thing when it comes to teams and team members? Got it. Have had it for quite some time, and, wow, does it ever get me some strange looks and “bleeding heart” comments from the “popular” team members; I don’t care about the strange looks and “bleeding heart” comments, nor have I ever cared as long as I can remember. That kind of “caring” was not standard-issue in my leader toolkit. I’ve seen the fruit of inclusion when it comes to teams and team-building and I’m sold, lock, stock, and barrel on it. But I have a hard time – a REALLY, REALLY hard time – believing this biblical principle is behind what has happened in our public school system. Cynical? Yeah, I’m not even going to ATTEMPT to avoid that label. It’s one of my faults and I’m aware of it (an working on it, difficult as it is) – but I really have difficulty at times defining the line between having a cynical view of something, and calling it out for what it really is.

In case you’re wondering: Yes, I can already feel the Spirit breathing a sigh of exasperation and shaking His head in discouragement while I write this.

Thanks for listening, my friend. The most invaluable thing in life is having a friend of faith who will listen and isn’t shy to let you know when you’ve fallen from the path (this is the part where you jump in and tell me why I’m looking at this all wrong).

Have a great day, Paul. I hope you took the “gone off the deep end” comment in the spirit in which it was given; with a nudge, a wink, and a smile. Just a conversation-starter.

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