A few years ago, I had the opportunity to see the Broadway musical Anastasia with our daughter, Rosie, while on a business trip to New York City. We snagged last-minute tickets in the front row, which was a unique experience for the both of us.
From where we were sitting, we could see not only the actors up close but also down into the orchestra pit, which gave me a newfound appreciation for the talent, coordination, and synchronicity of the conductor and the musicians.
As enthralled as I was with the story and watching the performance on the stage, it made me realize how essential the music and musicians are to the overall production. This had me reflect on the importance of recognizing everyone’s role, even those in the background.
Of course, I’d been aware of the music at previous shows I’ve seen, but sitting where we were that night made me realize how vitally important everyone is to the performance, even though I’d never taken the time to fully appreciate it until that moment.
When attending an event, such as a play, concert, or sporting event, it’s easy to focus solely on the performers and forget about the people working tirelessly behind the scenes. This also applies to teams in organizations, regardless of their size. Every person has a specific role, but their job is to contribute to the team’s goals, mission, and purpose.
The Importance of Every Role and Person on the Team
It’s crucial to understand the difference between your role and your job. While your role describes what you do specifically, your job is to help the team win by fulfilling the organization’s goals. When people prioritize their personal goals over the team’s objectives, it can cause confusion and conflict. However, teams that recognize that every role is essential and work collaboratively can perform at their highest level.
Whether it’s a group of three people or an organization of 3,000 or 300,000, teams thrive when everyone does their part and every role (and person) is valued and appreciated.
When most people think about their “job,” they think of what they do—engineering, sales, project management, marketing, human resources, operations, design, finance, and so forth. While these descriptions may encapsulate what you do and the title you hold, they’re not actually your job. If you’re part of a team, you have a specific role, which is what you do. However, your job is to help fulfill the goals, mission, and purpose of the team and, ultimately, the company.
In other words, you’re there to do whatever you can to help the team win. The challenge with this is that most people take pride in their role and they want to do it really well, which is great. However, when you put your role (what you do specifically) over your job (helping the team win), things can get murky—your personal goals become more important than the goals of the organization.
In the musical we saw, the actors on the stage, especially the lead actors, got much of the attention from me, Rosie, and those of us in the audience that night. However, without the musicians, the set and costume designers, the lighting and technical experts, the stage manager, the ushers, the marketing team who promoted the show, the ticket takers at the door, and so many other people, that show could not have happened and we would not have been in the audience.
Everyone Plays a Vital Role in an Organization’s Success
It takes commitment and courage, but teams and organizations made up of people who understand this simple but important distinction—who realize that everyone on the team has essentially the same job but different roles—have the ability to perform at the highest level and with the most collaborative environment.
Watching Anastasia reminded me that every person, from the actors to the ushers, plays a vital role in the show’s success. It’s crucial to remember this in any team or organization, big or small, and operate with the understanding that everyone has the same job of contributing to the team’s success in their unique roles. By doing so, teams can thrive and achieve their goals at the highest level.
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This article was originally published in February of 2019 and updated for 2023.