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The “I” in TEAM

28 Dec
The “I” in TEAM

Ask any athlete what the crucial element of success in a relay race is and nine out of ten will tell you it’s the hand over of the baton. The relay race is an analogy often used in business environments. Managers and trainers use it to emphasize the importance of team work, working together, the grey areas of hand-over where mistakes lurk and so on. I use the analogy myself. In my opinion, especially in businesses, the most crucial element of success is to get everybody running in the same direction. Then you can focus on the details.

In a recent workshop I rediscovered for the umpteenth time the problem with teams in small businesses: They aren’t teams. The team members may be good at what they do. If asked what it is they do they will focus on the technicalities. I type, sell, draw, analyze, call customers defaulting on their payments etc. They seldom refer to what they do in reference to what the company is supposed to be doing or with respect to what the customer expects. So what’s the problem? Well it boils down to either having a team or having several individuals working in the same company. A team has a common goal. Its members know what the team philosophy is and the team leaders promote a healthy team spirit and set clear targets. The team knows what it has to achieve. It knows who the enemy is and will defend what it considers its own with an almost fanatical zeal. In the other case, when asked what the company offers, replies read like a menu. “We do this, we do that, we do the other”. What is missing is the element of passion. Passion at work usually relates to a brand. If the team doesn’t have a flag to rally around, be proud of, defend, hold up and conquer, then there’s not really much hope. If your people are not a team, spend time on forging them into one. It can’t happen over night but it can be done. Build up what the company offers. Why should any customer come to you and not the guy next door? Your people should be fans of your company. Talk to them. Listen to them. Create a culture of cooperation and weed out any individuals that drag the others down. Build up a brand: what do people think of when they hear your company name? What are your values? What do you stand for? Why?

I am sick of reading smart ass tips of the day written by people who think they are on par with the likes of Winston Churchill and Victor Hugo. They come up with disjointed, isolated apothegms like, “The road to success is full of crossroads” or “Being right is an attitude” and similar shallow BS. One of these one-liners I don’t subscribe to is “There’s no I in TEAM”.  Of course there is! Teams are made up of individuals with different approaches, perspectives, talents and expertise. People work towards satisfying their need to succeed. If you can achieve a team that succeeds by its members succeeding as individuals working towards a common goal, you will win the relay race every time. Set out some team building goals for the New Year. You’ll be surprised to see that the value of the whole is indeed higher than the sum of the values of the parts. Enough clichés for one blog. Get them all running in the same direction, work on the hand-over and if necessary hit somebody with the baton…

 
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Posted by on 28/12/2012 in Managing people

 

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