Hiding in the ‘We’eds!

Key Point: There must be an “I” in team. I am totally committed to effective, high performance teamwork as the only way to win and sustain success in any organization. However, I have become somewhat concerned that the vitality and urgency of individual contribution can get lost when we focus exclusively on “we.” A team can only be great when individuals are fiercely self-accountable about their personal contribution. It is important that the “I” in team does not skid into narcissism. This demands that our individual contributions include results that positively impact the team for the greater good.

People are attracted to self-accountable people because they lead and take responsibility for their own performance first. The “I’s” in team set the pace, step up, and avoid trying to fix the “we” in advance of fixing themselves first. My antennae go up when I hear “we” in the same dysfunctional way as when the infamous “they” is thrown about. The phrase, “I wish we could/should…” is only marginally better than, “I wish they could/should… ” I’ve come to label this thinking and behavior as “hiding in the ‘we’eds.’”

I’m not a fan of people who say, “I did this,” “I did that.” But I’m a huge fan of people who quietly “do.” These types of folks just fire up in the morning and get it done. And when it’s time for recognition they gladly share it with the “we.” Here’s what I’ve come to appreciate about the best “I’s” in teams; these people keep one eye (“I”) on the higher purpose, while working autonomously, loving what they do, and really connecting with others. Coincidentally, the research denotes that these four behaviors are the key ingredients of personal happiness.

Character Moves:

  1. Help define your team by what YOU personally do. Look in the mirror first. Set the bar. Be the example. Give and do not expect anything in return. Do it because it will bring genuine happiness to you and the “we” you care about. 
  1. Let go of fear, keep your compass aimed at the greater good, and just friggin’ “bring it.” Be the “I” that your teammates just love to be around. Occasionally you will run into people that will be scarcity folks. They will try and diminish you. Sometimes, it will hurt. Breathe deep and just keep giving it. Things will work out in the long run. How could they not? 

“I” Teamwork in the Triangle,

 Lorne

One Millennial View: I really appreciate the phrase, “act like you’ve been there before.” You know, the idea that when you personally achieve something positive, you don’t NEED to make a spectacle of it. Certainly no, “hey, I did that. It was me.” Thanks to the roots you’ve already planted, it’s expected of you. Being a clutch teammate isn’t a surprise, and you have the confidence to know that too.  Obnoxious individual excitement would seem forced, and you sure don’t need a parade. This is often attributed to sports, but it can really apply to any facet of life. Whether it’s a customer or clerk saying “wow, thanks” for helping an old woman at the grocery store, or the next time you play a key role helping your team to that next big accomplishment at work, you can use that positive energy to fuel the next well intentioned step. After all, you’ve been there before, right?

 – Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

2 Comments
  1. Lorne says:

    Thank you Tim

  2. Tim McDonald says:

    Goods points to be sure Lorne. So often the value of the individual to the team is lost during the execution of the team’s work. In a worst case you might see teams roaming the halls like a pack looking to ‘kill’ the next task on the work plan rather than applying their individual expertise to achieve the task at hand or resolve a particular issue. Certainly the team creates the power but as in any engine the energy is based upon the smooth operation of the individual cylinders. So too the team’s synergy is only created through the facilitated contribution of each member. I think Katzenbach and Smith’s ‘93 Harvard publication, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High Performance Organization said it best, “real teams do not emerge unless the individuals on them take risks involving conflict, trust, interdependence, and hard work.”

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