We’ve all heard the statement a thousand times: There’s no “I” in “team”.
Companies have made millions printing teamwork clichés on coffee mugs. Sometimes it feels like there’s an unspoken rule that everything must be a team effort. Teamwork is better than individual work. If a person says “I did” or “I said”, they’re immediately labeled as being self-absorbed and not a team player.
Let me toss out there that it should be okay to be an individual contributor. Everything is not done by teams.
We should be able to think in terms of both individuals and teams. If we lead a team, we need to engage with team members individually as well as collectively. We need to find out what makes them tick as a person so they can become a productive member of the team.
As managers, our role is not to treat everyone on the team exactly the same. It’s to treat everyone fairly.
Let’s use the example of rewards. You and I work at the same company. I’m motivated by money – I want a bigger paycheck to buy clothes, shoes and designer handbags. (Let’s hope Mr. Bartender isn’t reading this!) And, you are motivated by time off – to take skiing vacations, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, whatever. If our boss gives us the exact same reward…one of us will be unhappy. It’s not our boss’ responsibility to give us both the same thing but to give us both the same amount of the things that are important to us.
Another example, this time using recognition. We’re still working for the same company. You like being recognized at staff meetings – think it’s cool when the boss says what a good job you did on XYZ project in front of the team. I like being recognized behind the scenes maybe with a note card or an email. If the boss sends you a card mentioning your great job, will you feel the same? Nope, probably not. And, if the boss stands me up in the next staff meeting, will I feel happy or embarrassed?
It’s important for managers to engage people on a personal level. And, it’s okay for us as employees to take individual pride and ownership. If we don’t let people connect as themselves, then we can’t expect them to connect as a team.
There is an “I” in every team…in fact, we should view each team as a collection of “I’s”.
Image courtesy of flasporty