“Moving” lessons about teamwork

I have just finished relocating my family’s residence to Napa, California. While the move was far shorter than our journey from Atlanta, Georgia five years ago, it still required what seemed like a gargantuan effort and a dedicated team to make it happen. We moved only 60 miles this time but managed the entire project ourselves.

The experience taught me a lot about the attributes of project team members – and the difference in the view of owners versus employees  in a business.

Our moving project involved 5 team members which consisted of two owners (my husband and I) and 3 part-time employees (our unpaid 2 children and one boyfriend.)

These are the roles played by each team member on my project- these roles might be totally different on another project:

1. Unpredictable but talented – we never knew when he would show up but when he did, he was able to accomplish the work of three other laborers. He could carry all of the heaviest items, and was able to contribute skills that the rest of the team lacked. When removing an item from the truck, he would not only place it in the new residence, he would take it to its final destination rather than dropping it in the front hallway blocking further items. As a result of his value, when he was absent, the rest of the project stalled. You might say he drove our critical path for project  completion (which was to leave the former residence by the 1st of January.)  Once the rest of the team members (including the owners) saw the value of this resource, we were able to live with his unpredictability and in fact  did our best to keep him happy. Other employees may have felt slighted as a result, but we had no choice but to keep this team member happy, well fed, and motivated to keep working.

2. Slow and thorough– this employee needed constant direction. When put on a task, he would do exactly as told but did not take the initiative. He would periodically get overwhelmed by the chaos and typically walked at a slow pace. When assigned to an effort that involved multi-tasking, he was inefficient. Once this employee was assigned to the right project, however, he became a star- he was a perfectionist at vacuuming and scouring the bathroom in final cleanup. Thanks to his touch, these rooms shined in a way they never had during occupation by their former residents.

3. Fast but not fastidious – this employee was all about getting it done. She was in a hurry to get to her New Year’s celebration. She could pack a box in minutes. Never mind wrapping the breakables, just get them in a box and out of here. She required frequent lunch breaks – and special ordered her food. To get it done at a rapid pace, this is the person you want on the job. But when it is time for dirty work or dealing with precise details , don’t expect this employee to be available.

4. Hard driving and aggressive – this is the owner cracking the whip. Jumping from task to task at a furious pace, this team member is the one who is driving hard for the deadline, who worries about damaging property, who pays the bill when deadlines aren’t met. This is the person who is rearranging the furniture before it can even be placed on the floor  (think changing the rules and not sharing the vision with the rest of the team). This is the team member most likely to be voted off the island by the other team members and the one who is most likely to suffer a heart attack during the project. Unfortunately, this is the role I played during this project. 

5. Steady and reliable – this team member was the glue that made the whole project work.  He also happened to be an owner. He had his eye on the deadline, but kept working towards the target in a methodical way. Undaunted by the chaos, he saw opportunities for improvement in every corner of the house. He took the initiative and worked continuously without comment. He kept others motivated, made trips to the dump, helped carry the heavy items, and played interference between the aggressive owner and other team members. He packed boxes carefully but swiftly, and managed the logistics of loading car and van with great skill. He negotiated deadline extensions and kept the project moving forward. And through it all, he kept his sense of humor. This is the kind of employee every business needs and the kind of owner employees crave. (Not to mention the ideal spouse.)

So here’s the point. We all need to think about how we act in teams and how we can bring out the best in our fellow team members. Consider these questions as you go about your day.

Which role are you playing at your company?

Which employee would you hire if you were the owner?

How would you behave if you were running this project?

And if you need help moving, I have the number for some professionals I suggest you call.

Addendum to post :  Edi’s  comment below reminded me that I made a terrible error of omission in describing the attributes of my moving team – on top of failing to mention the countless others who supported us from afar.

I left out one of the most important and valuable contributors – who I shall call the Angel Investor.  This was the amazing friend who showed up on my final day of cleaning up the old house – and voluntarily spent an entire Saturday cleaning, organizing, and even doing windows. This friend is the best team member of all – the kind who helps without any sense of obligation but through a simple act of kindness.  Her organizing tips really saved the day.

Comments (3)

3 Responses to ““Moving” lessons about teamwork”

  1. Paul Mabray says:

    Nice assessment of team players. What is interesting is how these team members meld in the FSNP (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing) phases. Thx for the great post.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Geni Whitehouse, Geni Whitehouse. Geni Whitehouse said: You knew there would be a blog post on my move : http://blog.bdcocpa.com/2010/01/moving-lessons-about-teamwork/ […]

  3. Edi Osborne says:

    There is one other person you neglected to mention: Supportive but Absent. We call these folks the cheerleaders; they wish you well, love to hear your progress, but are eternally grateful you did not ask them to help with the move. Thank you! and I promise I will never ask you to help me if I ever, god forbid, decide to move again. This will ensure we will always be good friends.

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