Singing to the Choir

Terri's Family

In the Presbyterian Church I grew up in, the “midnight” Christmas service usually began at 7:00 p.m.  So, I didn’t argue when Terri announced that we were going to attend midnight mass at her family’s Ohio church.

At Terri’s Ohio family home, Christmas Eve festivities commence at around 4:00 p.m.  when everyone gathers for a cup of cheer followed by dinner.  I wondered about the strange looks, when at 6:30 I asked to be excused so I could begin getting ready for mass.  About 30 minutes later, showered, shaved and dressed, I was ready to go, only to discover that Midnight Mass really did begin at midnight.

Five hours later when we finally made it to the church, I had suffered through a hangover and had begun to celebrate again.  As we entered the pew, I noticed that the great Christmas carol Joy to the World was being sung but not joyous enough for me.  So, I quickly grabbed a hymnal, found the carol and joined in.  I had barely sung the first line when Terri’s dad grabbed me by the arm and Terri placed her hand over my mouth.  I was indignant about such treatment until I realized that only the choir, not the congregation was singing.

Two things you can learn from the previous story: first, in my exuberance, sometimes I overlook details; and second, evidenced by how fast I was grabbed, I don’t have a very good singing voice.

When I was younger, I believed that to succeed you had to be good at every aspect of your job.  So, I was defensive about mistakes, slow to take responsibility and reluctant to work with others.

In business circles you hear about teamwork.  I remember an instance when a man I worked for asked me to put together a group to achieve a difficult task.  He lectured me on the power of teamwork and challenged me to assemble a good team.  When I went to him with my recommendations on who should be on the team, he removed several names because their skills were different and he wasn’t sure they would be “team players.”  His concept of a team was for every member to be similar.  That’s analogous to a football team being composed of just one player position: if all you have are quarterbacks, who is going to block and who is going to tackle?

A few years back, my friend Mark Boggs and I volunteered to lead our church’s stewardship campaign.  Mark is an engineer and as such is very detail oriented with every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted.  Me, I’m a marketer.  I look for the big picture, the idea that will catch people’s attention.  Mark’s persistent focus on detail nearly drove me crazy.  Conversely, my willingness to overlook details had him climbing the wall.  However, Mark and I made a good team and we exceeded the fund-raising goal and our friendship had survived.

I realize, as I grow older, that not everyone is the same; we all have our strengths and weaknesses.  I know there are some things I do better than others.  And, understanding such compels me to associate with colleagues who have strength where I have weakness.  It is true that understanding your weaknesses and strengths leads to a willingness to merge with those with complementary skills.  Such a merger results in a combination – a team – with a great opportunity for success.


Conflict is inevitable in a team … in fact, to achieve synergistic solutions, a variety of ideas and approaches are needed. These are the ingredients for conflict.” – Susan Gerke, IBM, Leadership Development

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie


2 responses to “Singing to the Choir

  1. You may remember that I was kicked out of the Presbyterian choir for singing too loud. I was challenged by one of my “pals” and met the challenge, with gusto. It might have been you, but it sounds more like a Peek stunt. Nevertheless, out I went……

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