Perspectives: Play your part

By Shane Jacques, Education Specialist, National FFA Organization

When I was in junior high, I was a certified band geek. There’s no use in denying it. I would spend five class periods plus two after-school sessions each week in our band room trying to perfect whatever piece of music our conductor, Mr. Runner, put in front of us. As much as I loved playing the trumpet, there were times when I found rehearsal to be boring, and sometimes, painful. Mr. Runner would spend the bulk of the hour working with each section of the band individually, leaving the rest of us to practice on our own until it was our turn.

Imagine the sound coming from the room…it sounded like a herd of elephants were choking as they fell down a staircase! Admittedly, I questioned his methods. After all, how could we possibly get ready for our concert when our precious practice time was being consumed by all that disorganized sound?

Years later, I now see the value in Mr. Runner’s process. Our success at the concert wasn’t dependent on any one section of instruments playing alone, but rather the entire ensemble bringing the music to life. Each section brought a unique element to the piece. The drums kept a slow and steady beat while the smooth and jazzy sounds of the saxophones and clarinets provided the melody, accented by the sharp sounds of my trumpet section. Every section had its defined role, and each section was responsible for its own share of the overall performance. Mr. Runner knew this and gave each section the individual attention it needed in order to master the music. He encouraged us not to focus our attention on the other sections, but rather on our own as that was how the band would be successful.

The same theory can be applied to your chapter officer team. Each member has distinct roles that they are called on to contribute to the group. That is to say, they each have their own sound that they need to create. The success of your team is directly related to the success of each member’s individual roles. Fortunately, we’re not called to contribute without first being given the instruments to do so.

By now, your team has probably come to accept one another’s differences and varying opinions for the sake of moving the group toward their goals. Since the team is aligned on the same mission, they’ll find that there are more opportunities for collaboration with their teammates. Like a band, each of the team members will bring something different to the table. When doing so, ask the team to consider what talents and strengths they can leverage as their instrument to team success. Undoubtedly, this will vary from project to project. Here are some questions to guide the team as they decide what they can offer to team success:

  • What is the goal of this project?
  • What action items does the team need to accomplish in order to meet this goal?
  • What roles are necessary to accomplish these items?
  • As individuals, have them consider which of their top five themes of talent will lend themselves to these roles?

Let’s make this a little more real, and put these questions to good use for an upcoming team project...

  • On a sheet of paper, identify a project that the team will focus on in the next month.
  • Answer each of the above questions as they relate to that project.
  • Have each team member have a conversation with their fellow officers about their strengths and how they can contribute to the success of the project.
  • Encourage the team to reflect on which of their strengths and talents will lend themselves to the task at hand.

Regrettably, I no longer play the trumpet but the lesson learned in the band room is still with me. When we stop trying to advance the team on our own, and start mastering our own music, our team will reach its goals. As chapter officers, they are being called on to lead with their strengths for the benefit of FFA members in the state. It’s time to play their part.