Jason P. Smith

One of the small jobs in my life is helping to build the “Knowledge Base” on a woodworking site called Woodweb.com. I scan its forums, selecting some of the threads for long-term archiving. Last month I chose one started by a shop worker seeking a new job. He wondered: What does a help-wanted ad mean when it says the company wants a “team player”?

The question created some excitement, and some friction. Reaction was a little polarized: some workers tended to worry that being a “team player” was just one more way to get exploited. Some bosses, on the other hand, seemed to feel that if you don’t know what a team player is, they’re not going to tell you — or hire you. But there was insightful dialogue, too. It’s worth a few minutes to read it on Woodweb.

More Than a Cog

Because hey — what is a team player? I don’t have a simple answer myself. And in some jobs, such as fast-food prep or big-box retail sales, maybe calling the outfit a “team” is a bit of a stretch. Sure, you work with other people and you have to get along, but at some level you’re just a cog in a machine.

But remodeling or building can’t be that way. Construction requires teamwork. Small projects, in particular, call for everybody to care, to get involved, to think, to cooperate, and to adapt.

Some people are play callers, and some people are role players; but it takes a team to get anything done. And everyone is on the team, from the new guy whose job is throwing scrap in the Dumpster, right up to the boss.

Teamwork involves contradiction. Great players are not yes men. Great teams are built from strong individuals. You have to take responsibility for yourself, but you have to cover your co-worker’s rear — and trust him to cover yours. You have to focus on what you’re doing, but stay aware of how your work affects everyone else’s. You have to set a good example, but not by showing off. You have to make the extra effort, even if you don’t get rewarded for it. And you have to show appreciation when someone else does the same thing. We win together, or else we lose together.

Teamwork is a big part of what makes remodeling such hard work. It’s also a big part of what makes remodeling fun.

—Ted Cushman, a regular REMODELING blogger, writes the Coastal Connection newsletter and frequently contributes to REMODELING’s sister publication THE JOURNAL OF LIGHT CONSTRUCTION.