Fireworks and Your Team

If you live in the United States or Canada, you’ll have had the chance to see fireworks at some point recently – in person or on a broadcast. If you’re anything like me, your experience might be a mix of enjoyment and of sensory overwhelm (though no other display will ever quite compare to the 2012 San Diego fireworks show, where an error caused the whole display to go off in 17 seconds).

Pyrotechnic professionals talk about planning a fireworks show as like writing a symphony or painting on canvas – with intricate components contributing to a viewer’s experience at the opening, the closing crescendo, and everything in between. “It’s called firework, not firefun, says Jim Souza, president of Pyro Spectaculars, who run Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular on New York City’s East River. Watching a lengthy display brings to mind the hundreds of individual fireworks that are used. Each one costs a non-zero amount of money to include, and yet in a show including hundreds – or even thousands – I wonder who would really notice the difference if one firework were removed, or one more added. But a fireworks professional could articulate exactly why each specific firework is used; what it contributes to that moment in the show, what it offers to viewers in different locations, the kinds of emotions it is known to elicit, and its part in the larger tapestry of the show.

Fortunately, you spend a lot more time with your team than you do with a fireworks display. But being able to articulate what each person’s unique contributions are – beyond their role descriptions and job duties – is not necessarily something that any of us do on a regular basis. Why not take some time to do that this week?

This Week’s Tip:

Identify the unique contributions of each of your team members and/or others that you work with on an ongoing basis (including your manager, executive team members, and so on):

  1. Spend some time (5-10 minutes) for each member of the team to articulate in writing what they uniquely bring to your team – beyond their role descriptions and job duties. This might be personality traits, life experiences that breed useful perspectives, creative thinking, specific skills they bring, a knack for building personal connections and community. Write some bullet points.
  2. In your interactions with them this week, look for examples from your list to affirm. You may not want to share your bullet point list with them, but use that as a way to help you notice these contributions, and take a moment to acknowledge and affirm a contribution when it comes up (it might be more appropriate to do this one-on-one rather than during a group meeting; use your best judgement here).
  3. Be on the lookout for contributions you didn’t notice before. Writing such a list for your team members and others that you work with will also trigger your brain to look out for other contributions you hadn’t noticed before. Use this as a chance to notice and appreciate more of the unique contributions brought by the people with whom you work.
  4. Ask what your own unique contributions are. If this is something you have a hard time articulating, ask others who know you well to give their own perspective on your contributions. Listen without pushing back, and show appreciation for what they tell you.

Try this out this week and let us know how it goes – we’d love to hear from you. If you have thoughts or questions, contact us or post in our Facebook group.

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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