For the most people an early Saturday morning is not the preferred time to meet their coworkers. And me, I am one of them. Most of the time my biggest Saturday morning puzzle is should I oversleep breakfast and have lunch instead. After all, the weekend is my well deserved time for rest. So it was pretty unusual when my alarm sounded around 5 AM that Saturday. Maybe the most peculiar thing was the fact that I jumped out of bed right away, skipping the usual habit of incessantly hitting the snooze button. It had nothing to do with my punctuality (I am all but punctual), I couldn't really sleep that night.
When someone in trouble asks you for a hand, you reach out. At least, that is how I feel about it, and that is how things are done in our office. When you don't know something – ask someone who knows. When no one knows – gather a team.
Governed by that principle, and certain that I knew what I was doing, I offered my help to three rookies. Looking back to it, I think it might have been the lack of sleep or early wakening that blurred my mind. I was wrong! Very wrong! So wrong, in fact, that my bad judgment led us on a steep slope. And I mean it literally – my three coworkers and I, all of them having stepped on skis for the first time couple of hours earlier, ended up on the steepest mountain slope. Well, we tried to cope with the problem ourselves, and failed miserably. Multiple times. So, what did we do – gathered a team!
Curious about our comical attempts to overcome the obstacle, a group of people approached us. One of them initially asked if we needed help, and as soon as the other started mocking us, it was clear – there was the rest of our crew. Every one of them an experienced skier. So, there it was, our team. Some may tell: "A stroke of luck", but for us a team work. Quick brainstorming and possible algorithms were found:
1. Learn how to ski (did find some drawbacks with this approach).
2. Break a hip falling down the slope (not too fond of it).
3. Take off skis and slide down the hill on your back (obviously this was our favorite).
We set up the test environment – skis were removed, and the bravest coworker tested the solution number 3 – she rushed down the mountain sliding on her back. A complete success! The solution was released, and all of us made a safe descend (with all our limbs in place). At that moment, the only person that felt more joy than us was a skier who saw what we were doing, and tried it himself. We should have developed a pricing model. At that moment it was clear to me that my early Saturday morning sacrifice was not in vain, a ski trip could officially begin.
Those Left Behind
An eerie silence is broken by the footsteps of a man entering the room. He sits at the desk in the corner, leaving seventeen more unoccupied. It is not the nicest desk in the office, but he always sits there. The emptiness of the room descended upon him. Dawn came, but the darkness in the room still lingered. Rain drops were sticking to the window. The sound of a car engine announces two more visitors. A quiet “hello”… Sadness in their eyes is telling more than their words.They quietly sit down and turn on their computers. No one else is coming – they are alone!
I imagine this is how our three colleagues must have felt on a Monday morning, alone in the office, the first work day after all the other coworkers had left on vacation. They were invited as well, but decided that they did not care for snow and winter sports. Indeed, they told us it wasn’t so bad: playing music out loud, staging games around the empty office… But, surely, we all know that it couldn’t be truth – they must have felt miserable.
As for us who hit the slopes, a Monday morning raised big expectations. Beginners were coming out nicely, keeping it safe on easy slopes, avoiding my further guidance by any means. Intermediates got courage to try out new things and improve their technique, and experienced skiers, well they did what every experienced skier would do – showed off.
So, the new intern challenged some of us to a race. He sure was brave, but it wouldn’t have been right for us to humiliate him. He was new, he had more to learn, he’d get wiser. We gracefully accepted the challenge, but we were to be nice after his defeat. It was sportsmanship, he’d get better in the future, and this was the best way to learn and improve, by following our example. Yes, it was to be his baptism by fire.
In Byteout we do not have executives or managers, each member contributes according to his or her skills and expertise. More experienced members will guide new ones. But, when a new project starts, roles can be switched. This way everyone can contribute where they are the best. So we were basically applying the same principle then – the intern would get burned, but he’d have more experience in the future.
We gave him a couple of guidelines, he just nodded. The race started. And… he’s gone! He left us behind for a half a length.
Not Another Team Building Trip
We are all friends in the office, having a great time working with each other, and on frequent occasions going out for a drink together. At the end of the day, that is why we decided to collectively go on vacation. Indeed, this was not a company team building trip, it was a genuine winter vacation.
Some may argue that it is a risk undertaking to take vacation with your coworkers. People often say that you come to know someone only after you share a room and that it is the best way to break a friendship. And this might be a good argument – we did learn so much about each other that we didn’t know before. But, on the contrary, it didn’t break us apart, the stuff we learned about each other only brought us closer together.
It is the way that your friendship is forged that determines the result. If your friendship is built on false expectations and deceptions, then the truth is its enemy. But, when a team is built upon mutual understanding and frankness, then the more you know about someone, the more you are able to understand their needs, and thus be a better friend.