An Island of Us

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  • by David Strasser

What I am. What you are. What we are. We are job descriptions. We are titles. We are roles and responsibilities. Salaries and statuses. Add to all of this the day to day actualities of work done, of requests answered and of realities faced. This is who we are. But only some. We are more. Way more. We are introverts and extroverts. We are quick witted and slow burning. We are light hearted and heavy handed. We are long suffering and short tempered. We are so much. So beautifully, remarkably much. I am a husband. A father. A dreamer. A painter. A writer. A handyman. A son. A brother. A fisherman. An uncle. A gardener. A tinkerer. A wanderer. To name a few. There is so much of what we are. And then—what we are not. I must admit that I fall in with Donne, here—and so I say, we are not alone, we are not islands. No man, no woman, no one is. The only island is the one of us—together. Call it a group. Call it a family. Call it a club, a class, a company, a gang, a crowd, a troop, a tribe, a band, or a body. The nomenclature matters little. In my mind, it often turns to a team. I am a player and a coach. I am both. But much of my time, much of my energy is spent coaching...and coaching and teams fascinate me.

In the lapse between paragraphs, I wonder if you have surmised that I am going to go on and on about how I coach at whatever I coach outside of my job and how I coach inside my job. I wonder if you wonder if this is another post about teamwork and leadership. A post of ‘atta-boy” and “way-to-go.” I think if it were, I would rather you grab the baseball bat that I am not going to talk about and smack me over the head. Knock some sense into me. Give me some coaching. 

The truth is this...I have learned a good number of things from coaching that apply to nearly every part of my life. Most of what I have learned has come from trial and error—mostly error. I have tried and failed. Sometimes have failed miserably. But hopefully I have not failed to learn from my failures. Here are some of my learnings. I think that they can help us. I bring them to work. I use them at home. They have become a part of me.

  • Know what you know. And know what you don’t know. Pretending does not work. It might for an instant. For a moment. But instances and moments fade. They fade quickly. And what remains after what has faded is often indignation. Irritation. And mostly distrust. Trust binds teams—holds them together. It builds teams—makes them strong.
  • Stretch to increase flexibility. Rigidity does not always work. It may set the course. Provide direction. Set the goal. But people with unique personalities, with varied skill sets, and distinct motivations carry the burden of moving together in a singular direction, of completing a course, of reaching the goal. Adjusting to rapidly changing circumstances, to highlight strengths, and to minimize weaknesses is crucial to success. Sometimes we need to push. Sometimes pull. And sometimes carry. Remaining glued to only one, to only pushing or pulling or carrying,  may leave us remaining just that—glued.
  • The now sometimes shows up later. The pace we wish to move and the pace we are able to move do not always line up exactly. Without losing sight of where it is you are going, sometimes the time of arrival needs to be shifted. Exercising patience without losing expectations requires a balance and a vision of what is and what can be. The frustration, irritation, and discomfort that often occur because of a lack of tolerance can be replaced with appreciation, satisfaction, and pride as a bale of turtles and a warren of rabbits both race toward an end.
  • Strong links and weak links are still linked. A coach is a player and a player is a coach. Learning to let go of hierarchies and to lean on each other is a learning that is often let go of. Being all of who we are instead of only one small part allows us to be the most impactful and offers whatever team we might be on the opportunity to be everything that team intends to be...and quite possibly, even a bit more.

So this is what I have come to know and I am hoping that my comings and goings are only en route...not at an end. I have been a part of a team since as long as I can remember. I have rarely been entirely alone. I have played on multiple teams...they have looked  like a family, a classroom, and a choir. They have been made up of some outsiders, some outcasts, and some rebels. They have ridden bikes, roamed neighborhoods, and raised hell. They have played music, played ball, and played parts. They have been practical, impractical, functional, and dysfunctional. All of them, no matter shape, size, or purpose—all of them have had someone who has acted as coach. And the best coaches are always learning. Always changing, Always growing. 

I would love to hear how you are coaching. Hear of your strategies for wins and your lessons from losses. Let’s talk: