three people hiking through the woods

Put yourself in this story.

You are part of a team on a 5-day backpacking trip in a wilderness area. Everyone on the team is carrying a pack of about 40 pounds. You wish you have taken more time to train and prepare for this trip. Now on your second day, your feet have blisters from your new boots and you are having trouble with the load in your backpack. On the hike, you are falling behind. You didn’t train with climbing gear for the technical part of the hike and are daily needing to be taught. You feel you are holding the team back.

In reality, you are.

A team member asks how you are doing and how they can help. They even offered to take some of your load. No, no I am good. Just not in the physical shape I thought I was, is your answer.

What is your prediction for how this is going to play out over time?

Turn this anecdote into one in your professional setting. One where you were not fully “in shape” to complete what was required to be a major contributor. Maybe you did not fully prepare for your current project or opted out of the additional training. Maybe you convinced your supervisor you were capable of a leadership role when you knew you had some significant deficits in the required skills.

Regardless of the reason, you are a negative drag on the team. Normal growth and development through career challenges are expected. Not preparing or taking care of yourself and showing up as a liability to the team is not expected.

The best way to take care of your team is to fully take care of yourself. If not, you have become a detriment and drag to the team. Regardless of skill or capability, your greatest contribution is being at your full capacity and fully engaged.

Recall a time when you experienced a team member not fully ready for the task. What was the impact? Ever experience a team leader not fully ready or capable of leading the team? What was the impact?

It is akin to being on the above hike, with someone that does not have the capacity to accomplish the task at hand. It drains the team, uses up its capacity, reduces resilience, and puts a drag on the operation.

Three questions for you:

  1. As a team member do you come fully prepared and engaged?
  2. As a team leader are you consistently fully prepared and engaged?
  3. As a team leader have you set your team up for success, staffing it with fully capable members?

The above questions say a lot about the culture you foster in your team. Taking care of yourself can be the greatest gift you give your team.