Hello my lovelies! Did you miss me? Yes, I know, I’ve been remiss of late in my pledge to help you navigate the perils of the workplace. What can I say but my current workplace has been a little more perilous than usual and as such, demanding a lot of Mme HR’s attention. Trust me, I’d rather be spending my time with you, my friends, but since you aren’t paying me yet, I’m gonna have to keep slogging away in the salt mines.
When I haven’t been slaving away and solving the myriad of problems my dumb managers seem to throw my way (and I mean “dumb” in the bestest most respectful way so I don’t want any moms out there chastising me for using the word “dumb”), I’ve been watching the early Olympics coverage. And, as a former serious fan of figure skating but not so much anymore, I can’t help but watch this new “team” figure skating thing that’s been going on. Mostly because it’s the only thing that’s been on, but that’s immaterial. “Team” figure skating? What the heck is this crap?
But before I start talking about that, can I take a small moment and say how much I really really want Johnny Weir to be my new best friend? He, teamed up with Tara Lipinski, has been doing the daytime commentary for the “team” figure skating competition in the most fabulous and fantastic way. His jewelry alone deserves it’s own medal. And the best part is that he’s a great commentator! While silly Tara says stupid things like “Oh, I could never do that!” when asked what a “twizzle” is, Johnny actually answers the question in an informative way while still imparting how freaking difficult it is: “It’s like a spin with movement, which is incredibly difficult to execute.” (Not a direct quote, but close enough). And he’s doing it all while wearing a wonderful gold necklace and matching earrings. I never thought I could accept a figure skating commentator who wasn’t Scott Hamilton, but I have to say Johnny has won me over, not just for the fabulousness but he is actually good at the commentating thing too. So lay off Johnny Weir, America, he’s not single-handedly responsible for making Russia change their homophobic ways.
Ok, now back to teamwork. You may or may not know that this is the first time they’ve had a “team” figure skating event at the Olympics. It’s got me thinking, in this very individualized sport, that’s it’s like the people who came up with this idea were sitting around thinking, “how do we get medals for everybody?” “Team figure skating! Hurray!” Look at the Russian team, for example, they started out with a strong performance from sentimental favorite and old guy Evgeni Plushenko. He never would have gotten a medal in this Olympics by himself, but now he’s going to get a gold (as of the writing of this). Hurray teamwork!
And then there are the Americans. They are middling in the men’s individual and pairs, occasionally good on women’s individual and fantastic in ice dance. Right now they are sitting at Bronze, purely because the ice dancing pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White (who, by the way, has the cutest moppiest hair you’ll ever see in figure skating) scored the highest score that has ever been scored in ice dancing. So, their loser teammates who have been falling all over the ice will now get a bronze medal. Hurray teamwork!
So there you go, right? That’s why we mangers love to spout about teamwork because it is kind of a “medals for everybody” kind of thing. The superstars balance out the bozos so that all of us just look good-enough. And there’s nothing better than good-enough, right? In an interesting moment, Tara and Johnny were talking about the idea that no one wants to waste their best performance for the “team” event. In Tara’s opinion, and if you look at what happened to her at the Olympics, it’s all about when you peak. And what if, quelle horreur, you peak during the “team” competition? Even if your team got the gold, would that be good enough if you don’t medal at all in the individual? I challenge that it won’t, unless you’re the old Russian guy who has a bad back and probably won’t even skate in the individual event.
It makes me think, as we are in the midst of performance review season, are our superstars also good team players? Do they sacrifice some of their individual performance for the team? Would they be better as individual contributors? Is it even right to include both in the review? I don’t know, probably not. Before I was a manager I was a superstar individual contributor and I hated working with a team. Now that I am a manager, I need my team. I know they have strengths and weaknesses but hopefully we can find some sort of yin yang thing with that. Maybe when managers spout about teamwork we are just serving ourselves? Maybe. But I’m OK with that, but not so much with this “team” figure skating thing.