Personally, I cringe every time I hear the
expression: “There is no I in teams”.
It suggests that all the strategic planning,
idea generation, implementation and troubleshooting are done by some vaguely
anonymous group of people.
I think about a firing squad. It takes a
dozen people to kill one person because that way no one can be held
I think about bizarre interview teams who are
all in the room at the same time asking pre-designed questions (to be fair!) so
that no one can be blamed if the wrong person is hired.
I think about communism under Mao – where
everyone had to wear the same colorless jumpsuits so that no one would stand
I think about Ayn Rand’s book “Anthem” the
futuristic story of people who had no names, but were given numbers instead –
Switch gears with me – think about sports and
- When you were a child
and your mother forced you to share a favorite toy or game, what was your
- When in High School how
did you feel if someone you knew “stole” your boyfriend or girlfriend?
- How did you feel when as
part of a small study-group team you wound up doing much of the work, but had
to share the credit with some of your more lazy classmates?
- Ladies – what’s your
reaction when you attend a very dressy function and discover someone else
wearing the same dress or gown as you?
- If you were the creator
of a new app that became famous – how would you feel if you didn’t get the
patent or royalties?
Each player has an important role and when the team scores,
the person or persons who made the play is given credit on the news. Yes,
they all work together in harmony as a team, and in fact they each in their own
way contribute to the success (or failure) of the game. However, one or
two people actually made the touchdown, goal or home run.
How do you think a player would feel if he ran
the entire field with the ball and the newscaster talked about someone else
having made the goal?
Workplace is different?
Now, you are going to tell me it is different in
the workplace. In the workplace the emphasis on teams assumes that everyone
is equal – and equally responsible for the work-product.
I’ve seen facilitators interrupt a conversation
flow to announce that X spoke for 5 minutes and now it was Y’s turn – when in
fact the most important information was coming from X.
In our quest to be fair – we tend to step all
over the brightest and most talented people. Instead, we need to respect
and nourish each person’s unique talent and unique gift and work together to
allow it to shine. That’s what happens in a winning sports team.
Let me tell you the
story of the 20th Century Motor Factory
(Adapted from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged)
It had the reputation of being the best in the
business. Its trademark stood for quality – excellence. That was one of
many reasons it attracted the best and brightest of engineers and other
staff. Unfortunately, some years after winning many awards for excellence
the original founders died and their adult children (products of one our
ultra-liberal universities) took over the business and created what they
considered to be the best social experiment.
It was to compensate people based on their need
– not on their ability. So, if the janitor had four children he received a
higher rate of pay than the engineer who was single. When someone’s wife
became pregnant, instead of rejoicing, all groaned since it meant less money in
their pockets. The best and the brightest quit. The company failed.
How do you create and
maintain successful teams?
- The most important
element is the leader/facilitator and their ability to see level. It takes
level to see level (Kung Fu – black belts)
- The leader of the
group controls how people interact and show respect for each other. (There
really is no such thing as a leaderless group someone always assumes
member of the group needs to learn about each other – both some personal
stuff and professional stuff – the object is for each of us to learn to
respect the expertise of the other. In other words – Walk in his
needs to have a shared vision, mission and goals.
member needs to be held accountable for his/her role in meeting those
“fair” is not as important as being true.
nice – “don’t say anything unless you have something nice to say” can
destroy the effectiveness of an organization. People need to be able
to “constructively criticize.”
in the team – whether a board of directors, an executive team, or a
work-team all need to learn how to make decisions that are based on some
logical structure – not on favoritism and being loyal to your friend or
and recognitions need to be carefully handled – not just given out to
So – let’s eliminate the phrase: “There is
no I in team” – Instead change it
“Working together we
achieve far more than we could achieve alone”
Labels: achievement, individuality, recognition, team