Extraordinary Team Blog

There is an “I” in Team

Posted by Kristin Arnold on November 19, 2010

If you think you are on a lousy team, ask yourself this question: Was the team was lousy before you got there, or did you bring “lousy” to the team?

I have never liked the notion “there is no ‘I’ in “team.”  Teams come together first as individuals, and then form into a team to accomplish a common objective.  As an individual, you must accept responsibility for your attitude and skills that contribute to the team’s work.

Christopher M. Avery, in his book Teamwork is an Individual Skill, asserts that individuals have the power to contribute to the team’s success.  Rather than whine and moan about your fate, consider the possibility that you have a choice to make or break a collaborative relationship with each person on the team.

Make a Difference.  Individuals can make a huge difference in the dynamics of a team.  Recognize that you have the power to speak up and be heard, challenge assumptions and be proactive in managing the relationship.  That means you work closely with your teammates; you make every effort to support each other; you keep each other informed and work together to solve problems; you offer help without being asked; and most importantly, you follow through on your commitments.

Keep Your Promises.  To build your personal power, Avery contends you “make only agreements — no matter how small — that you fully intend to keep.  Then consistently improve your ability to do that.  When you fail to honor an agreement, clear it up with the other person at the first opportunity by acknowledging that you didn’t keep the agreement, apologizing for not coming through as promised, asking how you can make amends, and recommitting to the relationship.”

Be Intolerant.  When others do not follow through on their commitments, don’t avoid the situation.  Bring it to the group’s attention (in a very kind and gracious way).  But don’t sweep it under the table.  It is your responsibility to call “foul” at the earliest sign that agreements aren’t being honored.  Avery suggests that the “secret to successful confrontation is to confront without inviting escalation or shaming the recipients.  That leaves them room to respond.”

No Whining.  Complaining about your teammates behind their backs is one of the deadliest sins to teamwork.  When you have an issue with a fellow teammate, bring it up to the person.  If you ignore it, the situation will never resolve itself; it will only get worse.  When you find yourself talking about another teammate who is not present, simply stop!  Go find that person and have a meaningful conversation about the circumstances and why you feel the way you do.

Examine the Upset.  We all get frustrated in our teams; upset about something or another.  When you feel upset with someone, explore your feelings objectively to discover exactly what it is and where it comes from.  I refer to this as an “out of body experience.”  Look at the situation from all points of view and all possibilities.  Then, take a look in the mirror — the source of your frustration probably starts with you!  You might be mad, upset, angry, etc. but you’re the one who is choosing to be mad.  You are giving the other person the power to affect you — and chances are, you are mad about it because you see the same attribute in yourself. (Yikes, I may not like what I see in that mirror!)  Once you have fully examined why you’re upset, only then can you release it and let it go.

Learn From Each Upset.  “The key is not to avoid, eliminate, or cover up mistakes and upsets, but to learn, correct, and improve each time,” asserts Avery.  “High performers recognize that an upset is an opportunity to learn.  Determine how you can change your behavior to strengthen the team.”

Question:  How can you make your team better instead of complaining?

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