Making the Team

Working with other people is hard!  I love other people, don’t get me wrong.  My life revolves around other people (most certainly it doesn’t revolve around me) but when I have to do work it’s so much EASIER to do it all myself: I know what’s been done, I know what has to get done, and if I don’t know how long it’ll take to do it, by golly, I’ll find out myself!

…by golly…shoot me…

Thing is, I learned real fast that some jobs aren’t easy to do solo. Performing a play…sure you can do a one-man show, but lighting, sound, and ushering people into the theatre might be a tad complicated.  Even my webcomic…which I drew (stick figures) and wrote (usually drunk) by myself needed help: a friend had to design the website for me, a couple of connectors needed to pass on that the comic existed in the first place, I needed plot help etc.  I could’ve done it myself, but  I probably never would have finished.

Running a convention and executing the various projects thrown to me at school all require having a team of some kind.   There is a lot you can learn by starting and finishing something with a team that you can’t learn by yourself. At school, there has most definitely been an emphasis on working with people you don’t know well because, in real life, it’s unlikely you’ll always get to work with people you know or like.  I have one thing to say to this…

HOGWASH (…bullshit can work too!)

It’s probably true that most jobs involve working with people you don’t know or necessarily like, but in my experience the BEST teams are the ones where there is a solid framework of trust, friendship, and fun.  Every job I’ve ever had with people I didn’t trust or have fun with was unenjoyable and, as a result, offered me no useful experience other than the gritting of teeth or sleepless nights.

Let’s start with Feral!  When I found myself in charge I started with a great team of people I got along with.  As it grew (with more required staff) and shifted (with staff taking well-deserved time off) I could have gone out and chosen people with gi-normous skill levels or specialized talents.  I could have shouted out to the entire community and found a whole whackload of people to fill the job.  But I discovered early on that ‘Camp Feral!’ has it’s own personality – a culture – therefore staff and volunteers had to fit the culture if it was going to be successful.

So, I ‘hired’ people I trusted…friends or trustworthy acquaintances…fun people…who suited the culture.  Every project has a culture.  With Feral, the culture is very laid back, friendly, outgoing and extroverted. A hotel convention, any convention for that matter, will not be the same…I’ve seen some that appeared outright manic, but with the right team working together and suiting the culture of the project it can be magical. Comparing Feral and a hotel convention is like apples and sledgehammers.

I’ve had people interested in helping Feral, but if I didn’t know anything about them or if they didn’t ‘click’ then it was no dice. Aside: ‘clicking’ is that weird grey area in the process of making the team. It’s the human gut emotion that may make no sense but should always be trusted whether for good or for evil. More on that later.

I may be missing out on some of the benefits of a ‘team of rivals’ but I’m not sure if that’s actually productive.  Committees of people who disagree can come up with some great compromises…but is that any better than a team of friends who trust each other enough to voice opinions and to KNOW the opinion will be respected, even if it isn’t adopted. They say a moose is a horse designed by committee…in my experience, a horse designed by committee will either wind up dead, traumatized, mutilated, or bored out of his horsey skull.

At school I found myself in projects regularly with the same three people.  We spend a lot of time together.  We bounce stupid ideas around.  We also work well together and, if there is a disagreement, we come to a consensus without needing to debate each other tirelessly…for the most part.  BUT THE DEBATES ARE FRIENDLY!  People have commented that we’re the only group in the class who hang out ‘outside’ of school.  We have a nickname, apparently: The Friendly Four.

I like that.  It’s fun working on things even if what we’re working on is complicated or stressful.  In the end we work towards a goal and more often than not are successful, even if success means dropping something we’ve been working on.

It’s the same with Feral.  Our meetings often break down into social gatherings.  Sometimes very little gets done at a meeting, but by the time August comes around everything is under control and the stress that comes from the last minute crunch is more bearable because I know I’m sharing it with my team of friends.

I’m hoping to revisit this subject over the year and be able to come up with a clear list of ways I’ve found to ‘make the team’ and make it work.  It’s hard to explain because so much of it relies on previous experience and a LOT relies on gut (that ‘clicking’ thing again.)

For instance, one of our newest members to the Feral team is someone I don’t know too well, but who fulfilled the other qualities I believe are needed for a good team: they’re really interested in the project, they’re fun, and I trust them.  The first meeting they attended they brought up a criticism from the perspective of being new, of being outside the culture, but my gut was right bringing them in: they aren’t a rival, they’re a friend pointing something out.  Just a friend who’s favourite colour I couldn’t name or middle name I don’t know.

That’s OK, though…they shall never know my middle name.

In the end, I argue that Making the Team is the most important part of any project, and if you are lucky enough to have a say try your hardest to make it a team of trustworthy, passionate, fun people. Save the team of rivals for debate club.

Roo will be turning this into a multi-part series through the year…look for the Making the Team title to keep up!

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One Response to “Making the Team”

  1. Frost Says:

    I have to agree that the team dynamic works best when people are friends. As you said one of the downsides is that often a meeting will breakdown into a social gathering.

    This isn’t always a downside however, I’m pretty sure that Condition was named during a meeting where I had just ordered pizza and was resting upside down on Cola’s sofa.

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