Wanted: Singer for lifeboat duty
“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” ― Voltaire
When you're putting together a team, you seldom think of how your teammates will interact when things go wrong. You mostly think that if you choose your teammates wisely, everything will go according to plan. But things seldom go according to plan.
Finding the right teammates for the best of times isn't as difficult as finding the right teammates for the worst of times. When you're sailing along at a brisk pace through placid waters with a warm, golden sun blanketing the sky with its rays, you don't worry so much about who's on your team. However, if your boat just hit an iceberg in the dead of night and you're helplessly floating in a tiny lifeboat in the lonely, frigid darkness, team chemistry is crucially important.
Honestly, your team's bound to hit a few icebergs along the way - maybe many of them if your work is important and challenging. There's going to be a time when everything seems to be working against your team - hostile senior leadership, a lack of resources or demanding customers. You may be in safe waters now, but eventually you'll be stranded in a lifeboat again.
It's times like these that you'll think that you need a fearless leader with endless optimism. You'll think you need a rescue ship to magically appear and snatch you out of the treacherous ocean. You'll think you need a map, a compass, a light and paddles to help you pilot the boat to safety.
But what you really need is a singer. More importantly, you need someone who can lead your whole team in a simple, but joyful song. Because sometimes your team's just going to be stuck in the dark seas for awhile. And the best thing you can do is preserve at least a tiny amount of hope in hopeless times. It's that singer's beautiful voice - which maybe soft and vulnerable - that will keep your team engaged until the sun rises tomorrow and you can regain your strength and wits.
Some of the strongest teams I've ever been a part of were also the teams that hit the most icebergs, that were stranded the most often, that were once considered lost at sea. But the one thing that helped our team recover was there was at least one teammate who shared a melodious song with us while we bobbed up and down in the choppy waters. And that lone voice helped lead the entire team in song. Eventually, we were all rescued and went on to sail many voyages since.
I hope I was once the singer who led my teammates in a joyful melody in the cold dead of night.
This post originally appeared on The Good Idea Exchange, a blog about leadership and self-improvement.