When the pandemic first rocked the world and sent millions of people into quarantine, many of us went into survival mode, turning inward as our personal and professional lives merged. The transition was abrupt and uncomfortable: we struggled to schedule conference calls and deadlines around our spouses’ Zoom calls, our children’s virtual school, or our dogs’ incessant barking.
Today, more than 60 percent of United States employees are still working from home, and many companies are planning to make remote work permanent, at least on some scale. As we pass the six-month work-from-home checkpoint, it’s easy to continue prioritizing self-preservation, especially as the effects of the pandemic, social unrest, and the presidential election echo in our hearts and minds. Isolation has started to feel normal, and many of us are tempted to focus only on ourselves in order to survive, especially at work. But if we want to discover the path to success and fulfillment, we must realize one of the most valuable lessons the pandemic has taught us: the value of our communities.
As Christians, there is no distinction between our spiritual lives and our work lives. Because we were designed and created to work in community, our lives are richest when we follow Christ’s example and serve each other beyond self-preservation. If each individual member of a team focuses solely on their own obligations, isolation increases, and the team itself is unsuccessful. In a virtual environment, building community by putting your teammates first is critical for long-term team effectiveness and personal satisfaction.
We know how this year has been incredibly difficult for everyone – but we urge you, for the sake of your team and your own fulfillment, to look in, look up, and step out. In a community and on a team, either everyone wins, or no one does.
First, look in. Examine your motivation, and understand what drives the actions you take every day. At work, do you purely look out for yourself? If each member of the team is carrying their own load – and only their own load – no one is keeping an eye out for others who may be struggling. No one is seeking out new opportunities or changes in direction, which is detrimental to the success of the whole team. Serving on a team requires sacrifice. Ask yourself if you’re exemplifying stewardship and unselfishness at work.
Next, look up. Check in with your community and examine your team’s needs. Often we find ourselves thinking, “Am I currently doing everything I am supposed to be doing?” Rarely do we ask ourselves, “Am I doing everything I can be doing at the moment to make sure my team accomplishes all that we can?” The difference between these two questions seems subtle, but the contrast is night and day. The first focuses on whether you are getting your work done. The second is a “look up” question – a “how can I serve?” question. A remote work environment diminishes the camaraderie – and peer pressure – that exists in a physical office. At home, there is no one in the adjacent cubicle who can keep you accountable and on-task. Now is the perfect time to hold yourself responsible and strengthen your character by going above and beyond, even when no one is watching.
Lastly, step out. Look for concrete ways to add value to your team and lead by example. Can you offer to train a new team member or organize a bonding activity to help everyone check in with one another? Take action as a servant leader by humbling yourself and doing what needs to be done for the good of others, and the good of the team. Serve others again and again until it becomes second nature. This type of Christ-centered leadership is not meant exclusively for managers; it is a mentality that should be put into practice by every member of a team – from the vice president to the intern – in order to bolster and nourish the community.
In times of crisis and commotion, it’s crucial we resist the temptation to prioritize our personal checklists. Look out for one another and lean in to your community. A team that relentlessly offers themselves and their talents for the good of the group is poised for success today and far into the future.
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No matter the circumstances, remember to look in, look up, and step out.
Russ Sarratt and Rusty Chadwick serve as Senior Director and Director of WinShape Teams, respectively, a non-profit organization that exists to build strong, healthy, and fulfilling teams that change the world around them. Russ and Rusty are the authors of “Team Work,” a new book that provides a framework for team success and fulfillment based on the principles of personal excellence and sacrificial service.