Clearing the Cache

Finding the “I” in “Team”

“Ruthless.” That word would be a compliment if it described my ferocity toward an opponent. Unfortunately, that was how I was described in my attack on a teammate.

The department I’ve worked in for nine years has had a team shake-up in the last two years. We have had some people move on and it took two new team members to replace the one who left. Old workflows and processes no longer produce quality results because they were defined and refined based on past team composition.

Where I have thrived as a jack-of-all-trades, adding more team members with specialized skills have made me wonder where I fit in the new team. The variety of tasks I onced enjoyed have been delegated to specialists and I find myself shuffling tasks from one person to another and creating TPS reports.

When I first started playing basketball, I thought I would be a small forward. I was stronger defensively, considered myself decent at boxing out, and had a better chance of making a shot near the hoop. As I played more, I found that I got boxed out, couldn’t get rebounds, and couldn’t make the shots under the hoop.

By the time I played on a league team for a third season, I was better at the perimeter as a shooting guard due to my speed and outside-shooting strengths. I still confuse myself on occasion by playing close to the basket when my teammates aren’t getting the rebounds as much as I hope, but I am quickly reminded that I don’t belong there as I get banged around by the bigger players playing in the paint.

And then my teammates got frustrated because I’m not fulfilling my role in the team, which they’re expecting me to be at the perimeter.

As I’ve been playing Heroes of the Storm with coworkers as a team, I still consider myself a rookie since my coworkers spend more time in the game than I do, know specific tricks and tips, and speak the jargon in the game. Often times, I go along with what they’re saying, even though I had no idea what they were talking about. I’d put two and two together eventually, right?

In a recent team game, after two losses, I got frustrated feedback from a teammate. I played the role of a tank where I give damage as well as take damage. My teammate was a healer who plays a support role and stays away from direct confrontations. In the heat of the battle, I retreated because I sensed that I wouldn’t win the fight. But I didn’t tell my healer teammate, who took the brunt of the attack without me.

“Hey Dave,” a low voice crackled through my headphones, “you gotta let people know if you’re getting out of the fight.” Where I thought I’m excellent as a communicator, I had failed to communicate even a simple retreat status.

He had been dropping constructive criticisms whenever we played to improve my game, for which I’m thankful for, but this one stung. I was tempted to be defensive but having an argument wouldn’t help. I was frustrated too since we were about to lose the third game in a row.

After that match, I considered deleting the game, and never play it again. I found myself in a similar realization I had with competitive StarCraft 2: it took practice to be good. And practice required time—time I didn’t want to invest in. I probably reached the plateau of my skill-level and continuing to play would only frustrate me since I couldn’t keep improving.

I was tired of team games. I was mad at failing at teamwork. I was angry that I couldn’t figure out my role in any of the teams I’m in. Not in Heroes of the Storm. Not in basketball. Not in the marketing department.

What’s the problem? Well, the common thread is: me. And the problem is that I’m too stuck in jack-of-all-trades mode that I’m trying to be everything in a team that needs me to be one thing and one thing well.