There is No I in T.E.A.M. (But there is a ME)
Teamwork is vital to the success of any business. The title to this chapter could have been written by a passive-aggressive employee. “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM. But you know boss, there is a ‘ME.’” Yeah. There is also a ‘MEAT’, a ‘MATE’, an ‘EAT’, and an ‘ATE’. Since we are not necessarily dealing with anagrams in this chapter I would like to move on to a philosophical discussion centered on what is called a TEAM.
By its very nature a TEAM essentially becomes its own person. It is quite like one huge multi-legged, multi-brain organism which, in order to survive, has to build relationships with other huge multi-legged multi-brain organisms – either another team in your company or the customer’s team. It is, therefore, that this TEAM organism has a unified purpose. We’ve all seen dysfunctional teams. They are identical to a mental patient suffering from schizophrenia. Their thoughts float from one thing to another, sometimes battling against themselves to the point that the patient no longer knows what reality is.
A TEAM with a unified purpose is one marked with each member thinking the same way, working toward a common goal, understanding one’s place in the universe in which they work, and participates in activities or behaves in such a way to foster growth and good will, the health, if you will, of the other members of the team. To see this in action is a joy to any manager and there really is no limit to how far one can go, how high one can climb, or how mobile an organization can become when the TEAM moves and exists as one organism. The odd thing, and I realize how hard it is to describe, is that when this happens, the TEAM takes on a personality of its own. It essentially becomes its own person and as long as that newly created “person” stays at the center of the team, things go well.
I would now like to introduce the employee who constantly tries create this new “person” in his own image. This employee sees the role of leadership as their being the center of the TEAM and they try to force that to happen. In essence, they try to recreate the team dynamic into something that looks quite like themselves. And they do it without realizing that it is really very easy to do. But they fail to see that by introducing their stronger personality into the equation, they actually create dysfunction in the TEAM because the TEAM ceases to focus on the mission and they only focus on counterbalancing them. They essentially create a group of strong willed individuals who happen to work at the same address.
I know I need to be careful here because I am leaving the technical aspects of team building that, honestly, generally fail to foster the team work a manager needs. I am stepping off into something that is much harder to define, something that is somewhat uncomfortable to hear, and it all has to do with how we act toward each other as people.
I will leave you with your bullet points for how to act towards other people.
• Trust your coworkers. Unless an imminent death or injury would be involved with letting a coworker fail. Let them fail. This sounds like a lack of team work but it really is not. Team work should never consist of compensating for another team members failure to perform. Trust them to help you, delegate what you need to, then let them help. If they fail, they fail. In your efforts to help someone else do not compensate for poor behavior.
• Treat everyone with courtesy and respect- even if a coworker is untrustworthy or not worthy of respect treat them like they are. Don’t tattle, don’t degrade. Your manager knows what’s wrong. If you compound your manager’s problems, by being disrespectful or angry with your team it will take him longer to weed out the issues. Besides, we all want respect. There is no harm in giving it. You will appear the better person if you respect everyone.
• Take the high road. Just because someone does something wrong and seems to get away with it doesn’t make it right. Always be respectful, always do the right thing. The right thing is rarely to make someone else look bad. Only in cases when a coworker is going to hurt himself or others or if a coworker is deliberately damaging a customer relationship should you report them to your manager. And even if you have to, there are ways to do it without being accusatory or appearing to tattle.
• Do not impose your will on the team. Do not think too highly of your self. Put the team and the goal you are trying to reach before any personal credit you may be able to attain. There will be enough credit to go around.
• Teach. If you have a special skill or special knowledge, do not keep it to your self. Teach team mates what you know. Volunteer to lead training classes. Teach without appearing to be a know-it-all
• If the team is successful, make sure you speak in terms of what ‘we’ did. Do not bring up specifically what ‘you’ did. Let your manager do that. If the team is not successful, do not point out other’s faults, instead take responsibility for what you did wrong and let others have the opportunity to speak up for themselves about what they did wrong.
• If you can’t work on a team and purposefully help develop the team personality. Get a different job; a job where you can be your own team, like bull fighter, or burglar.