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How to embrace your ability and find your happy place in a team

Tutankhamen photographer in the desert

What could a blog about Tutankhamun have to do with team dynamics?  Well, I’m looking back on a post I originally published back in 2017 with a slightly different view of how we should all embrace our abilities and find our happy place in a team…

The Man Who Shot Tutankhamun; what a great title for a documentary!

Was this some new theory about his death, I thought?  (It was late and I’d had a long day, in my defence) but no, it turned out to be a fascinating programme presented by the wonderful Margaret Mountford about Harry Burton, the photographer ‘whose images of the Tutankhamun excavation created a global sensation in the 1920s’.

I could do that!

As Margaret and present day photographer Harry Cory Wright were exploring the technique of glass plate photography I thought (as I always do) ‘I could do that, I’d like to have a go’ but was stopped in my tracks by Margaret’s accurate announcement that ‘this is no job for the impatient’.

Oh, yes, I’d forgotten about my massive lack of patience in certain circumstances; in this case, I have no doubt I would have ended up with a blurred, half developed monstrosity (with sand in it).  Without wanting to blow my own trumpet I possess lots of skills, including:

  • Tenacity
  • Organisation
  • Creativity

but patience is not one of them.

Embracing your abilities

It’s ok though, not to be brilliant at everything.  Back in 2017 I was lucky enough to have a student spend the week doing work experience with me.  I was incredibly flattered and honoured that Lucy had chosen me as her placement but also slightly worried that I would struggle to find enough interesting work to keep her occupied.  A week later and I was in awe of what we managed to achieve in the week she was here; she taught me focus, perseverance, attention to detail and of course, how to use YouTube correctly (she was 15, I was 43, enough said).

I ‘interviewed’ Lucy at the end of the week to assess what we’d taken away from this experience.  For Lucy, she gained confidence in her own ideas, learned about networking and presenting to a room, an enhanced knowledge of certain technology and was confident that she was able to bring me ideas from a younger perspective through her social media skills.  I realised that I am good at what I am good at, could improve in some areas, and will always have something new to learn.  Lucy was thinking of a career in social media marketing, I was thinking that I’d love to have a 15-year-old working with me full time!

*Update* – Lucy, now an amazing, confident, brilliant student of  Economic History at Edinburgh University is thriving in the face of a challenging, COVID-hit, virtual first year.  Proof indeed that we are allowed to change our minds about our future careers.  (and yes, she’s now 19, I’m now 47…)

Team Dynamics

Looking back on the experience and what I’ve achieved since has made it all the more obvious that it’s not only ok to have diverse members within a team with different skills and abilities, it’s vital.  Effective and positive team dynamics thrive on contrast, empathy, understanding, and yes, sometimes conflict.

Embrace what you are good at, understand that other people will be more effective than you in some tasks, and not in others.  Always remember that you can’t do everything yourself, and playing to your strengths will pay off.  However you shouldn’t stop trying, failing and learning (maybe I’ll have a go at the glass plate photography after all).

And as we all know, if you find a job you really love which puts your skills to good use, then it doesn’t really seem like work at all.

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