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When I was in second grade, we did a fun assignment in Mrs. Duppstadt’s class that required us to design our own restaurant. We had to come up with everything from what the restaurant would be called to what food would be served to how our employees would be dressed. It was a marvelous assignment for fostering creative thinking.

School wasn’t always an enjoyable experience for me as a kid. But I remember being completely engrossed in this assignment and having so much fun designing my restaurant—2L’s Food Lounge.

My mother recently downsized to a new house and sent me a box of “things” from my childhood that she had kept over the years. Included in the box was a folder with my second-grade restaurant assignment. I don’t know why she kept it, but I’m glad she did. What a blast from the past!

As I leafed through the pages, I realized that Mrs. Duppstadt’s assignment was essentially a business plan.

We had to draw pictures of what we envisioned the exterior of our building would look like. We had to provide a floor plan for its interior. We had to list our menu prices. We even had to provide the “secret recipe” for our house specialty, which was going to be a quarter pound hamburger on a poppyseed bun, topped with an American flag. (*See picture above.)

Revisiting that assignment brought about two revelations: First, I wasn’t nearly as creative nor original as I remembered myself being. Second, I was an atrocious speller! However, in at least one instance, my wayward spelling produced an unintentional yet profoundly accurate statement.

An activity on page 12 of the assignment asked us to list qualifications for personnel we intended to hire to work in our restaurant. In my elementary school scrawl, I listed:

  1. clean
  2. smart
  3. follow roles

image-activity#2

In a way, the qualification I listed conveyed my desire to hire people who were good teammates. Good teammates practice cleanliness. It’s a way of conveying pride and consideration for others. They are also competent—a synonym of smart. A spelling mistake with the last qualification, though, offers an insightful perspective.

I suspect the second-grade version of me meant to write “follow rules” instead of “follow roles.” The current version of me thinks the spelling gaffe to be more pertinent. An adherence to roles is more significant than an adherence to rules. While good teammates respect compliance (following rules), they are more concerned with their commitment to their role.

Teammates who follow roles enable teams to operate with synergy. They make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Appreciating the importance of roles is what ultimately defines the components of a team. Good teammates understand that every role on the team matters and that their teams’ maximum achievement is dependent upon every member mastering his or her role.

You can occasionally get away with disregarding rules, but no team succeeds with its members disregarding roles.

A final revelation worth sharing: The restaurant assignment reminded me that Mrs. Duppstadt was a wonderful teacher and a good teammate to many. May her example and her willingness to empower others inspire you to do the same.

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 college basketball coach turned author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.

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