15 Nov Business is the Ultimate Team Sport
Are you a team player? Now there’s a loaded question. We all know the politically correct answer. But what’s really in the back of your mind?
In many cases, the “YES” answer to this question is not politically correct, it can be as close to mandatory as one can legally get.
“Sorry, Jim, you’re just not a team player. We’re going to have to let you go.”
Employees viewed as not embracing the team player notion may be seen as renegades and trouble-makers, or maybe just pathetic loners. These are probably the guys in the back row mumbling, “Oh no, not another team-building exercise!”
First, Examine the WHY
The wisdom of using the team concept in business is nothing new; it’s been around for decades. Many “boomers” can certainly recall the days before businesses’ infatuation with team-building. Gradually, they saw the disposition toward rugged individualism give way to the teamwork tidal wave. The term synergism became popular, along with snappy phrases like “2+2=5” – mathematically incorrect, but very compelling.
In retrospect, most have to agree that the adoption of the teamwork mentality in American business may have been the greatest breakthrough since Henry Ford created the assembly line. But wait – I can hear Ford yelling at us from his grave, “Hey guys, my idea for the assembly line WAS all about teamwork!”
Too Much of a Good Thing?
So it’s a given that we do not want to regress with a diminished emphasis on teamwork in business. We must, however, be vigilant of the fact that there can be too much of a good thing.
Many who downplay or even openly oppose the team concept – you know, those guys in the back row – claim that it does an injustice to individual contribution and success. And yes it can, if not implemented and managed properly.
When individual accomplishment is drowned out by the din of the teamwork mantra, those with above average talent and/or work ethic may feel unappreciated. Ah, the infamous double-edged sword.
Finding Room for the “I” in Team
It’s rare to find someone who has not heard the phrase, “There is no “I” in team.”
Common sense, however, tells us that the team hoopla cannot be so strong that it drowns out individual accomplishments. When this happens, where’s the incentive for each individual team member to give it their all? While an incredible force, team spirit can only go so far.
Reality has shown us that, teamwork emphasis notwithstanding, we must still reward stellar individual performance.
Looking at team formation at the outset of a project, we realize that team members are selected for a variety of reasons with the probability of stellar contributions usually being the number one criterion. Choosing team members based largely on time availability spells trouble on day one.
The Fly in the Ointment
The big challenge for team leaders is making sure individual recognition does not dampen the spirit of the other team members. Individual contributions go beyond just hard work. An ability to contribute innovative ideas usually ranks high when it comes to selecting team members. Unfortunately, rewarding just a few members for their above-average work can create friction among the others.
The Recipe for Success
Outstanding team leaders have discovered a recipe for success when facing individual recognition vs. team bonding dilemma. Allowing the team itself to become the overarching driver of the initiative for which the team was formed for a purpose and that goal or objective must remain as the team’s central focus.
Creating an esprit de corps, wherein the team’s accomplishment of the overall goals garners much more attention than any individual recognition can defuse any personal friction that otherwise may pop up. When all members embrace the fact that these few high performers were instrumental in helping the entire group get their rewards, there will be no hurt feelings. It all comes down to proper communication.