I visited the London 2012 Paralympic Games last week – what an eye-opener it was; what an absolute privilege it turned out to be.
I watched a 5-a-side football match between Turkey and France. I’m not a great football fan, and have never knowingly watched a 5-a-side match. But this was different; this was utterly compelling. Paralympic 5-a-side football is played by blind or partially-sighted players. To ensure a level playing field, all players wear eye masks; the ball has bells inside. The goalkeeper can be sighted. As the teams were led out onto the pitch at the start, I was struck by how they relied on each other – this was very much a team game.
I couldn’t help making the comparison with this photo of British soldiers in the First World War, blinded by gas [photo courtesy of makingthemodernworld.org.uk] – each staying close to the next, supporting each other, practically and emotionally. These are real team players.
How many times have we read CVs which declare “I’m a team player”? How many times does it really mean that? Or is it just a lazy “filler”; one of those things which is important to have on a CV; something so bland and ubiquitous that we don’t even notice it anymore?
I’ve always felt that too many people fail to understand exactly what it means to be part of a great team. After all, most of us work as part of a team – whether it is large or small; global or local; tight and effective, or loose and ineffective. But we’re all part of a team, right? Well yes, but if that’s the case, why bother mentioning it on a CV? The only reason for declaring something on a CV is if it somehow adds some value in describing you and setting you apart from others – helping the hiring manager to select you ahead of your peers.
Being a real team player is different. People who have been part of a great team, know it; they say it feels like nothing else. They are happy to accept criticism in the spirit with which it was offered – for the good of the team, to achieve a common objective. Nobody likes spiteful criticism whose sole purpose is to elevate the proponent above the others. Real team players share their skills whilst being humble enough to accept feedback and to listen to others.
Those French and Turkish paralympic football players were unbelievable. They scored remarkable goals against a sighted goalkeeper. They tackled each other with astonishing efficiency. Every player was there for his team-mates demonstrating mutual support, respect and trust in an incredible performance – these were real team players.