Did You Know: How Teams Are Like Christmas Lights?

In this holiday season, it is nice to travel around and see the beauty of light displays on homes and businesses. A conversation the other night lead me to think about parallels between these lights and teams.
Some displays have only one color lights. These can be very striking displays, but lack the highlights or character that can come from including other lighting colors. In some displays a nice looking string of lights may go dark because one bulb is loose. A good display might be overwhelmed by a particularly bright feature, or the lighting of one home may seem meager when compared to that of a more zealous neighbor.

How does this relate to teams? The displays of one color of lights is like the way many of us put teams together. We pick people that are like ourselves. We like those who approach problems the same way we do, analyze the situations in a similar manner, and arrive at the same conclusion we would. After all, we know those people “think right”.

When we do this, we lose the different perspectives that would be provided by other personalities. Considering their approach can strengthen our team process, just as adding different colors of lights can enhance the variety in our display.

If your team is dependent on one or a few members to carry the load, it really is not a team. While their contributions may be significant, if they leave the team for any reason the process may come to a halt. Just like the strand of lights going dark when one bulb goes out, the possible contributions and ownership of others is lost.

If a team relies too heavily on someone who is the “star” of the team, the contributions of others may seem less significant. Just as an especially bright feature can detract from the rest of the display, real teamwork can be accomplished only when there is a balance between all participants, taking advantage of the strengths of each.

Comparing the lighting of one house with another is like comparing the achievements of one team with another. Doing so may minimize the important work done by a team if it does not seem to shine like another. The problems they worked to solve may have been of different complexity, the level of available resources may have differed, or more emphasis may have been given to one team than another. While we want to recognize the accomplishments of effective teams, we do not want to minimize the efforts of others.

Meredith and I hope you will have a great holiday season and be able to enjoy some good lighting displays. Whether you prefer “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, or any other greeting, please accept our best wishes to you and your family.


About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at http://calmc.org
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