By now, most of the northern hemisphere has experienced their first snow fall of the season, despite winter not officially arriving until next week.

If you’re able to get beyond the general unpleasantness of the accompanying cold temperatures, the inconvenience of having to clear pathways, and the inevitable disruption to travel plans, falling snow can be an inspiring sight.

Each snowflake is uniquely constructed. No two are ever alike. The real beauty, however, is found in their collective appearance. Snowflakes fall with the harmonious rhythm of a perfectly synched orchestra. The sight is majestic, if not mesmerizing.

I heard a story recently about a Rabbi named Schultz, who bought his friend, Reverend Brown, a Christmas tree ornament from Ahmad, the corner store clerk. On the bottom of the ornament was a sticker that read: Made in India.

To summarize, the ornament was made by a Hindu, sold by a Muslim, gifted by a Jew to a Christian.

If you’re able to get beyond the arguably offensive stereotypes, the story offers an inspiring insight about maintaining identity and purpose.

One of the most difficult aspects of being part of a team is finding a way to assimilate into the team’s culture without abandoning your individuality. Some refuse to believe that to be possible. Others believe the answer lies in replacing standardization with inclusion.

Maybe. But that’s more of a big picture leadership strategy that isn’t necessarily within any individual member’s control. You may not be able to dictate policy change on that level.

So what can you do as an individual to influence your approach to this issue?

First, learn to embrace the value of diversity. See different perspectives as assets that contribute to your team’s beauty the same way that different snowflakes contribute to the beauty of a snowfall. Just remember that, though differently shaped, every snowflake falls in the same direction.

Regardless of whatever individuality you seek to preserve, you must maintain a commitment to working toward a common team objective that overrides any individual agendas.

Second, choose to prioritize your purpose over your differences. Maintaining a commitment to a common team objective requires an adherence to several universally respected values—determination, compassion, integrity, etc.

Once you accept your commitment to those values as being your most significant identifier, all other identifiers become immaterial.

None of the individuals in the above story needed to abandon their individuality to play their part in the life cycle of the Christmas tree ornament because they shared a commitment to purpose. Rabbi Schultz gifted with kindness. Reverend Brown accepted with gratitude. Ahmad sold with friendliness. And the unnamed Hindu presumedly manufactured with diligence.

When your commitment to service and purpose becomes your primary identity, you transcend the issue of assimilation.

By the way, the story of Rabbi Schultz and Reverend Brown ends with both friends smiling—a universal expression of happiness. Service leads to purpose. Purpose leads to happiness.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is the founder and CEO of the Good Teammate Factory. He is a former sports coach turned bestselling author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.

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