Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

What “There Is No ‘I” in TEAM” means to an Employee


Before you start cussing and banging your head against the table – just breath and listen for a moment.

Remember in the beginning when I said you’re going to have to wrap your brain around new and unusual concepts?  Well, this is one of them.

“There is no “I” in TEAM”

has been the traditional “call to arms” of every manager since the beginning of business.  The meaning and motivation behind this statement is to inspire staff to recognize the benefit and power to be gained from working together.  From professional team sports to burger flipping, traditional managers have trumpeted this message to promote cooperation among employees in functioning as one, single, cohesive unit.

Though the intention is promotion of cooperation, this statement is business focused, not individual focused.  When a person hears this statement they may recognize it as a truth; but for the business – not for themselves.  “Yes, staff is more effective when working together” and “Yes, it is better for the company which writes my paycheck,” but, “Let’s hurry up and finish this rah-rah session, it’s almost break time.”

A good employee will conform but seldom develops “buy in.”  A not-so-good employee will grudgingly smile and do what they want to do anyway, grumbling all the way.

What this statement really tells me as an employee is:

1)     I’m just another cog in a giant wheel (and any cog can be easily replaced),

2)     I’m not really all that significant,

3)     no one cares about me, and

4)     all I’m really responsible for is my little part (I’m not doing anyone else’s work).

What this statement provokes in an employee is:

1)     I’ve got to cover my own ass,

2)     that’s not my fault,

3)     stay out of my territory, and

4)     that’s not “my” job.

If I feel like an insignificant part of a whole, employee # 2800672, my goal is to get a paycheck.  This fosters the “us vs. them” mentality. I become a “Job Minded” employee, not a “Career Minded” employee.

As manager, I need to recognize the value and the inherent power of each individual and want to bring that power to the team.  I do this by bringing the individual to the team while maintaining the individual’s identity.  The team welcomes the individual, not assimilates them.

Each person has their own unique combination of talents, abilities, skills, principles, hopes, dreams, and wishes – their own unique style of creativity. The one thing I don’t want is group of automatons, mechanically running procedures to achieve a desired goal.  I want a group of individuals each utilizing their own unique “ability to create” to facilitate personal growth which, in turn, initiates a process that supersedes a desired goal.

In other words, I want a TEAM of individual’s who maintain their individuality, but understand and accept the power that comes from interconnectedness.

As manager, I want each of my employees to have “buy in” to the process and I want them to take “ownership” of their respective position.  With “buy in” comes understanding and inspiration to work the process, and with “ownership” comes responsibility.  With this, each person brings their power to the team instead of going to the team to take their power from.

– excerpt from “The Manager as Engineer of the Work Environment”

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July 4, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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