The Jet Observer

Semper Gumby

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 9:54 am

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing some introspection on leadership and teamwork as part of an online course on conflict resolution. I came across a quote in my studies from John Maxwell who said “teamwork and personal rigidity just don’t mix.”

As I look at the early Christian church, I see times of sadness where great teams such as Paul and Barnabus split up over personal rigidity, not fundamental issues. I also look to the disciples of Jesus and see a great diversity of personalities, trades and cultures; yet we also see the importance of unique individuals effectively working together as a team with a common goal despite those differences. Sure, they had squabbles about who would be the best or sit at the right hand of the master, but they were able to work through their own differences and selfish motives, and return back to the team mentality, united in purpose because they were a part of something bigger than themselves. I think the key here is an old Marine proverb I learned in my first tour which was “blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken” or in simple terms, “Semper Gumby.”

Maxwell quotes “Inflexibility is one of the worst human failings. You can learn to check impetuosity, overcome fear with confidence, and laziness with discipline. But for rigidity of mind there is no antidote. It carries the seeds of its own destruction.”

To be a team player, I’ve always learned that I must adjust to my seniors, but I’ve also learned that people are motivated by different things, so to be a good team leader or member; you have to adjust to the team itself. This means the key to a good team is adaptability. Adaptability means that we have to be teachable, we have to be creative and think outside of the box, we have to get into the habit of learning and growing; and finally we must be service minded and think about others, not just ourselves. This is when a team functions at its best.

The Apostle Paul as a church leader got this when he said in Philippians 3:12-15 “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also” (NASB).

I think for Paul and for us, it’s all about our attitude. If we think we’ve arrived and lose our teachability or flexibility with others, conflict will arise. If we remain open, flexible and adaptable, we can use the sandbox skills we learned as children to help us in adulthood to work as a team in our workplace and in our homes. The moral of the story…be Semper Gumby!

Information taken from John C. Maxwell’ book (shown above), “The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player.”

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