I have decided that I don’t agree with the saying “There is no I in team.” I do believe that any one person trying to do all the work, take all the credit or make all the decisions will lead to failure. But the idea that to create a team each person must give up their individuality is wrong. Here’s why:
Groupthink – Teams of individuals who are willing to think for themselves, stand behind their ideas and engage in Productive Conflict™ will develop solutions that are better than any single individual could on their own. Teams that believe consensus and “teamness” are most important settle on the lowest common denominator (worse than the team average).
Social loafing – Being on a team where everyone is responsible for everything means no one is responsible for anything. Sure, someone should do the dirty work. But that doesn’t mean me. And the person who does do it is usually seen as a patsy. I have a brother who ran into this issue during a pre-veterinary large-animal class in college. The class was being held at the barns and they noticed an hours-old calf struggling in watery mud. It became apparent that the calf was going to drown. The students all agreed that “someone” should go save him. But no one did. Finally my brother pulled off his shoes, waded through the thigh-deep muck and carried the calf out. For the rest of the semester kids in the class teased him for being the chump who ended up nasty and dirty.
Finger pointing – If no one is ultimately responsible, everyone and yet no one is to blame. You’ve seen it happen on numerous teams from sports to boardrooms. Everyone uses the blame thrower and argues why a failure or mistake isn’t their fault and no one fixes the problem.
Zero accountability – If all you know is the big picture of what the team is responsible to deliver there is nothing to hold the individuals accountable. Poorly outlined expectations are doomed to go unmet by a nebulous team.
Successful Teams are Built on Individual Accountability
Encourage individuality in the planning stage – This means giving your team members the right to disagree and professionally and respectfully argue their case while being open to ideas that will make it better. This only happens when individuals are emotionally intelligent, confident and kind. The first two are skills that can be learned. Provide training. Being kind is something you either are or you aren’t. If someone on your team who isn’t kind you will NEVER have a high functioning team.
Eliminate patsy thinking – Reward those who take on the dirty work by having their back. Never allow a teammate to rib someone for stepping up to the plate. That goes double for allowing someone outside the team to heckle or gossip someone on your team.
Develop a problem solving culture – Back when I was a manager I only had two questions during a crisis: Where are we? How do we fix it? Talking about how we got there was not going to get the problem solved. After we implemented a solution we would look at what happened and what needed to be done to make sure we didn’t have that problem again. Often it was a matter of training or retraining someone. Most people want to do the job right. And saying, “Let me show you how to do this well” is so much productive than berating someone with blame.
Publicly outline who is responsible for what – A navigator and a pilot do very different things. One flies the plane (or drives the car). The other keeps track of where they are compared to where they are going and provides guidance. If neither does their job – they fail. If both try to do one job – they fail. If they fight about who is going to do which job – they fail. Only when they understand and successfully perform their individual roles does the team succeed.
Create individual accountability – An expectation has three parts: Goal, Path, Guidance (GPG). Where are we going? How are we going to get there? How much guidance do we need (or need to provide)? Each individual must be responsible for asking/answering these questions and using powerful speaking and conscious listening to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Hold yourselves and each other accountable – When you know the goal, understand the path and have the guidance you need success is a matter of execution. On a healthy team, members hold each other accountable to executing by offering help and removing roadblocks. Successful individuals working on teams hold themselves accountable by meeting deadlines, asking for help before something becomes crisis and owning mistakes.
I absolutely believe that without “I” there is no team. How about you?
As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!
Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence by sharing active leadership, powerful teamwork, conscious communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com.