What is it that makes you valuable as a human being? What is it that makes you valuable as a teammate? I use the word teammate in the broadest sense, applying it to work and home, to sports and friendships, to community and country. What is it that makes you valuable as an individual – that sets you apart from the person standing next to you?
By definition, as individuals, we are not replicable. Each of us is intricately unique from our DNA to our life experiences; from our value systems and ideals to the perspective from which we view the world. The fact that we are unique and not replicable is the very definition of valuable. We step into that value to the degree that we’re willing to examine, understand and take ownership of it.
What makes you valuable are the parts of you that no one else can imitate. If any one of us was the same as the person standing next to us, one of us would not be necessary.
We spend much of our lives adding value to ourselves in the form of qualifications and additional knowledge – ensuring that what we present to the world is well-rounded and useful; that our skill set is either diverse enough or honed enough to add value. However, our skill set and qualifications are the replicable part of us. They are the parts of us that it’s very possible the person standing next to us may also have, especially if you were sitting in line for a job interview. What sets you apart in that scenario is the part of you not quantified by your skill set and qualifications. The part of you that is…uniquely you.
The ancient Greek maxim “Know thyself” suggests that understanding our unique make-up and owning it is key to our fulfillment and success. This advice is echoed by many philosophers and in many ancient texts from which millions draw wisdom. To know ourselves is to understand what we believe, what we stand for, how we make our decisions and view the world, how our personalities and characters serve and hinder us, and how best we can use our strengths and cover our weaknesses. To know ourselves is to understand and appreciate what sets us apart and therefore what only we can uniquely offer. To understand how we are uniquely gifted and qualified at our core beyond any qualifications, certificates, and licences.
To know, understand, accept and appreciate our unique life experience and outlook is the difference between those who can offer themselves for service from a place of quiet confidence and the arrogance displayed by those less certain of their intrinsic value. Understanding what we bring to the table means examining both our strengths and weaknesses so that we can focus on and act from our strengths, whilst allowing someone else in our team to cover our weaknesses with their strengths. This is why we become a team.
We are equipped from birth with a singular combination of characteristics. Anyone who’s raised children will tell you that no two are the same. We go on to layer life experiences and learning over those characteristics. Some of those experiences bring us joy and raise our expectations, and some of them are distinctly difficult, equipping us with empathy, strengths, knowledge and perspective we would otherwise not have had.
The lists of traits that make up a valuable team member become repetitive without searching too far. They are valid lists that would make anyone looking for a new teammate in any scenario nod with agreement. They speak about having a positive attitude, holding yourself accountable, being flexible and collaborative. They mention being reliable, honest, autonomous, and adaptable. They welcome understanding of your role within the team, and a drive to achieve your outcomes to the best of your ability. These lists refer to traits such as being a good communicator and being intrinsically motivated – able to act from your own energy as opposed to being driven by someone else.
Having examined these lists, I’m not sure there’s a single trait indicated there that can be offered effectively without first having some idea of where you’re coming from as an individual. There is also not a trait mentioned that isn’t strengthened by our ability to stand in our own worth with confidence – understanding and appreciating what it is we bring to the table.
Being able to communicate well requires us to have examined how we think and feel and given it language that allows us to explain it to others. Communicating well also requires us to have examined our perspective and accepted that everyone we communicate with may come from a slightly different one. Communicating well requires us to understand how the experience of others may affect our own, and to empathise with their position. These are things we cannot do if we have not examined ourselves first.
Being reliable, honest and accountable requires us to have examined responsibility – to have a clear view of what belongs to us and what belongs to others. Being reliable, honest and accountable requires us to accurately acknowledge how our life experience has informed us on those points for better or worse. Where have these traits worked for us and where have we fallen short?
Being autonomous, adaptable and intrinsically motivated requires us to act from a depth of confidence in our abilities and our outlook, having ensured we’ve both examined our own internal view and understanding as well as the big picture of what is presented before us, requiring out input.
At the end of the day, being able to present ourselves as effective and valuable team members will always require us to go inwards first. Whenever we reach a stumbling block or a wish to develop further, there will always be a degree of self-work required to improve our outward offering. Whenever we set out to serve, it is the part of ourselves that we offer that makes the biggest contribution – the part of ourselves that we leave with others.
Think about the people around you – either those that make up your team at home, or at work; on the sports field or socially. Each of them is unique and can be described in ways that others would pick up on as being uniquely them. Each of your teammates has an essence that sets them apart. They have a belief system or skillset formed from their own life experiences that mean they add something specific to your life and team. The same is true for you.
To the degree that we are willing to know ourselves, and to understand and distill how our joys and sorrows, trials and tribulations have shaped us into unique offerings; to the degree that we’re willing to examine our belief systems and perspectives and compare them with others without judgement – we become more valuable, collaborative, adaptable, honest, reliable, communicative human offerings. We become valuable team members because of what we uniquely bring to the table and how we are willing to share ourselves authentically with others.
by Christen Killick
February 7th, 2022