ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Thursday, July 21, 2016

There is a ME in Teams

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 responsible.

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 out.

I think about Ayn Rand’s book “Anthem” the futuristic story of people who had no names, but were given numbers instead – no individuality.

Ask yourself:
  • When you were a child and your mother forced you to share a favorite toy or game, what was your feeling?
  • 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? 
Switch gears with me – think about sports and sports teams: 

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.

Meritocracy works!

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 responsibility.)
  • Each 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 shoes.
  • Team needs to have a shared vision, mission and goals.
  • Each member needs to be held accountable for his/her role in meeting those goals.
  • Being “fair” is not as important as being true.
  • Being 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.”
  • People 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 boss.
  • Rewards and recognitions need to be carefully handled – not just given out to everyone willy-nilly.
So – let’s eliminate the phrase: “There is no I in team”Instead change it to:
“Working together we achieve far more than we could achieve alone”

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