There are many good baseball players out there, but few truly great players. (Yes, this is going to be another weak baseball analogy weakly tied to something like interpretation or interpretive design that you actually care about.) My all-time favorite New York Yankee player (I don’t have to say great since it is a preconceived notion that no other Major League Baseball teams have great players, there is also a discussion that every player to ever wear the pinstripes is great but that’s an analogy for another blog post.) is Derek Jeter.
Those who have been paying attention to the Yankees over the last few weeks (even if just for the ability to chastise me on Facebook) may have noticed that overall the team is getting older and don’t have the spunk of 2009 (when they beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series). At some point even the greatest players get old and despite the ability jump, turn and throw in mid-air, it all comes down to what you have contributed lately. Jeter has been primarily contributing ground balls to the short stop.
I feel bad for Jeter. He his resume speaks for itself. He has been a machine for years, has 5 World Championship rings, as well as many other titles but in an attempt to retain you as a reader (yes, we honestly try; well, I guess it could be debated that Paul’s grammar posts are counterproductive) here’s the part that I’m really struggling with, Jeter turns 37 next month and so do I.
Over the last few months I have been feeling old myself. As a player, he is past is prime and as a professional baseball player, rating his contribution to the team is easily measurable, or is it? How do I know if I’m still a player and contributing in my field of play? (Which is much like Yankee Stadium minus the applause and 50,287 spectators, but still plenty of hot dogs.)
Some time ago I wrote about staying relevant (Relevance for the Irrelevant) and this could be considered an extension of that post or part two (of Shea getting old). As interpretive designers we are often working as a team. Someone may be contributing artwork, text, concepts, funds, or ideas while others may be responsible for design, layout, technological support, or supervision. In some cases you could be carrying all of those responsibilities. I find myself on many design/project/problem-solving teams in my course of work. I just want to make sure that I’m contributing so that I don’t get moved from short stop to right field, to the designated hitter slot, or even worse shipped off to the National League.
Here are some ways that I’m working to stay relevant in a team environment.
If I’m in a leadership role I try to provide clear expectations of the group and outline responsibilities without taking over the creative process. Teetering between manager and player is a delicate balance of providing direction, creating goals and objectives, while allowing the strengths of each member shine. Knowing strengths and weaknesses of players will guide your decisions about specific roles. Groups are often looking for a leader. If you are in that role, lead.
If I’m not in a leadership role I view my primary responsibility as being supportive. I have to set aside any personal agendas and let the process take place. The best part of doing this is that it takes an amazing amount of pressure off of me of know what the end product will be and allows me to focus on my role (supporting others) and my responsibilities. Working in this way is rewarding and productive.
Don’t forget about the intangibles that you can bring to a collaborative effort. Respect, attention to detail, positive attitude and being prepared can go a long way in reaching goals.
I don’t think it is time for Derek Jeter to lay down and call it quits. He may have to adapt his role as a leader and a player in order to lead the Yankees to their next title.