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Albert was livid. Absolutely livid.
"How could they?" he said to himself. "How could they ask me, how could they ask anyone with any intelligence whatsoever, to put up with this kind of treatment?"
The young man was seething as he slammed into his chair and assaulted his computer. If the mouse had been a live one, it surely would have suffered whiplash from Albert's jerking as he whipped it back and forth across the mouse pad to disengage his computer's screen saver and cause the menu display to pop onto the screen.
Albert quickly scrolled the cursor to his Internet browser icon and double clicked. He tapped his right heel up and down and glared off into the opposite side of his office cubicle, fuming as he waited for the computer to bring up his designated home page.
His anger slowly gave way to fear and a deep, gut-wrenching anxiety as he continued to reflect on what had just happened. His stomach began to tie up in knots as he realized that his second experience in working with groups had quickly become worse than his first.
The first "Tiger Team" they had assigned him to had been bad enough. But fortunately-both for Albert and the other team members-the assignment had been a short one. The work was for the most part completed by the time Albert joined the group. Albert's contribution wasn't critical to the outcome, but was important to the project's overall success. The good news was that although Albert's piece was indeed challenging, it didn't require too much collaboration with the others on the team.
From the beginning Albert felt that the other Tiger Team members weren't very friendly. They were congenial to each other, but never really warmed up to him. Even more important, though, he felt they didn't show enough respect for his intellect or his ideas. Deep down inside he knew he was smarter than all but one, and he could certainly hold his own with her. Worse yet, they were almost arrogant about the work they had already accomplished, even though Albert was confident he could have done a better job.
However, strained feelings and underlying tensions aside, the team and Albert finished the project before anyone's emotions festered to the boiling point. Albert went back to his own work, relieved the project was over. He was thankful he could work alone without having to worry about all the hassles, frustrations, and endless, time-consuming delays of dealing with a bunch of groupies who were more interested in what everybody else was doing than they were in getting the job done.
Then came this second Tiger Team.
Even the term Tiger Team rubbed him the wrong way. What was it supposed to mean? Albert suspected it was just a form of manipulation to get people to think they were special if they did something with a bunch of other people.
Well, Albert didn't feel special. In fact, working in a group just gave him a headache.
Why couldn't they just tell people what was needed, divvy up the work, and then let them go do it?
No, that'd be too easy, he reflected.
Albert's frustration with this second team had set in early. The team had started off in what Albert considered to be the wrong direction. He thought they were trying to satisfy too many people with the design, thereby making the finished product much too complicated.
When they told him they had to follow that approach because it was specifically spelled out in the team's charter, he clammed up. Have it your way,<$> he thought smugly to himself. You'll see.
The next uncomfortable moment was triggered in the team's second meeting when Albert told the team leader his name was "Albert-not Al. Two syllables, not one." He momentarily felt a little guilty that the team leader had been embarrassed when Albert corrected him in front of everyone. But only a little guilty. He thought it insulting that the guy couldn't even refer to him by his correct name.
And now this.
Each of the team members had agreed to complete an assignment during the three-week time period between the second and third meeting. Then they would get back together at the third meeting and piece things together to lay the foundation for the rest of the project.
After starting his work according to the criteria that the group had agreed upon, Albert came up with a better idea. He refocused his efforts and put all his energy into developing this new idea. For the past two weeks, he worked day and night, and even gave up both weekends. With the exception of a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday when he played Frisbee with his pet Australian shepherd, Digger, he worked nonstop. He was eager for everyone to see how much better his plan was.
He prepared a presentation to deliver to the group at the beginning of the third meeting. He even titled it "A Better Way," so they would get the point quickly and not waste any more time following the mediocre direction they had originally-and by Albert's judgment, mistakenly-taken. He even rehearsed the presentation a few times in front of Digger, who enthusiastically barked his approval.
Albert had stayed up all night working to fine-tune his speech and was in the office early that morning, eager to present his ideas to the other team members.
Then came the meeting.
As soon as the group had exchanged their usual pleasantries, Richard, the project leader, outlined his agenda. Albert interrupted to ask if he could take a few moments to address the group before they started work on the agenda. He assured them they'd be pleasantly surprised and would consider it time well spent.
The group consented.
Albert proceeded to outline his ideas and the plan he had spent the past two weeks perfecting.
To say the presentation didn't go well would be a considerable understatement.
As soon as he started to explain how his idea was superior to the one the group conceived, the team members began to withdraw. Some folded their arms. Faces turned serious; some were even grim. The overall reaction was decidedly negative.
When team members started questioning the reasons for some of Albert's suggestions, Albert became defensive and pushed even harder to convince the group that his way was a better way. He raised his voice, impatient to get his point across, but the louder he spoke, the louder the dissenting team members protested. The meeting quickly became a classic power struggle.
And Albert lost. Big time.
He not only lost the argument, but he lost his cool.
Albert's composure was annihilated as he stormed out of the conference room in a huff-an angry, contemptuous huff-that left a wake of ruffled emotions and unresolved conflict.
So now here he was. Mindlessly surfing through cyberspace, contemplating his situation, and wondering why some people were so hard to get along with.
Albert longed for a return to the days when he was in college. Albert had graduated cum laude from the University of Northeastern Michigan (UNM) with a bachelor of science degree in computer engineering. He graduated in three years instead of the usual four or five like most students these days. Albert would have been the valedictorian the year he graduated had it not been for his less-than-stellar grades in his humanities classes. In the classes he really liked-those that focused on computers, math, and science-the college classroom environment served him well. He studied hard, went to class, locked into each professor's delivery, and filed away everything he learned in his computer-like brain. Albert could memorize formulas, equations, and programs, and could always come up with the right answers. He would do his work, study hard, and was solely responsible for his academic success.
At graduation time Albert was recruited heavily and was quickly hired by United Global Advance Technologies, better known as UGAT. UGAT is a Chicago-based high technology company with worldwide operations. He settled in quickly and rapidly gained notoriety as the company's brightest rising star.
Ten months later he was assigned to his first Tiger Team. The team was brought on board to help complete the company's hottest and most important project.
Albert felt his contribution was minor because he was put on the project so late in the game, but because he crossed the finish line with the group, he was included in the recognition for the project's success. In fact, he even received special recognition for getting up to speed so quickly and helping out at the last minute.
That's why Albert's department head, Megan Godwine, had assigned Albert to be on this current project from the beginning. It was a terrific opportunity-one that would have normally been reserved for a more senior and experienced person. But Albert had established himself with his work on the first team and Megan felt this second team would be a great chance for him to proceed on the fast track. Megan seemed to genuinely want to see Albert succeed. She was the person who recruited him and urged him to come on board at UGAT. She was also a graduate of UNM and in fact had first learned about Albert through her old professors. As a department head, she was constantly on the lookout for top talent, and the professors knew it. They enthusiastically recommended Albert to her and Megan immediately recognized his potential. Now she offered him what she thought to be the opportunity of a lifetime and he wanted out.
What should I say when I meet with her in the morning? Albert asked himself. He and Megan had an appointment scheduled for 8:00 a.m. so he could debrief her on the project and how it was going.
Until now he had been looking forward to the meeting, confident he'd be able to tell her all about how he had reshaped the project direction and really made a difference. But now all he could think about was how to tell her he wanted a different assignment.
He couldn't work with these people. Not now. Not after they had completely humiliated him by rejecting his ideas without even so much as a hint of reasonable consideration. Why couldn't they just put their egos aside and listen, even just a little? Most of them had stopped listening in the first three minutes! There's no way she could expect him to take that. It was a sign of disrespect and an indication that they didn't want to work with him.
Maybe it's because I'm still one of the new people around here, he thought. But it's wrong for them to treat me that way, even if I am new. Besides, don't they get it? It's the ideas that matter, not me. I'll bet if any one of them had the same idea, they'd think it was great. They're just intimidated by someone my age being so far ahead of them. They're trying to teach me a lesson, make me pay my dues.
Well, they can have their lesson, he thought. Tomorrow when I meet with Megan, maybe I should just tell her to tell them that they can take that attitude and my job on this Tiger Team and shove it.
One thing he was certain of was that he was not going to let Megan think any of this was his fault. Even though he suspected that the knot in his stomach was at least partly caused by the knowledge that in some way he had provoked the team's reactions, he didn't want to admit that to Megan.
No, he thought. In as polite and respectful a manner as possible, I'll just ask her to take me off the team. Maybe there's another team with different people she can assign me to. But what I'd really like to do is work alone.
Reprinted from Winning Ways by Dick Lyles by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Dick Lyles. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.