Many readers probably know, I’ve never been a fan of the cliché, “There’s no ‘I’ in T.E.A.M.” It’s hokey and there really is something to be said about encouraging the work of individual contributors. However … being a superstar doesn’t mean you get permission to abdicate taking responsibility for the group within a team dynamic.
Here’s a hypothetical we can relate to: an employee is a member of team which is tasked with a project. The employee is a great individual contributor – enthusiastic, hardworking, and a self-starter. During the course of the project, the employee is approached about a team problem. They respond with “oh, I don’t know anything about that” or “that’s not my responsibility”.
Bzzzzz. Wrong. Fail. When you make a commitment to a team, you have to take ownership of the overall goal or project the team is tasked to do. I’m all for giving individual contributors their 15-minutes of fame and letting them do their thing. But individual contributors can’t operate in a vacuum. If an individual exceeds their goals but the team fails, then the individual contributor can’t say their efforts were a success.
On the other hand, taking ownership within a team doesn’t mean individual contributors are responsible for doing all the work. Ownership is making sure that, when team challenges occur, the appropriate people know about the issues. If the rest of the team doesn’t know about problems…they can’t fix them. That does the team a huge disservice.
As individuals, we have to take ownership of those things we commit to doing and hold ourselves personally accountable for getting the task done. In a team setting, that means committing to personal goals within a project and the overall success of the group. Managers that encourage these behaviors will find their jobs a lot easier and their results a lot more significant.0