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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients.
The Missing I
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About this blog
By Stephen Balzac
Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients with his 7 Steps Ahead philosophy. Whether you're trying to hire the right people or get your team on track, this is the place for accurate, useful ...
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Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients with his 7 Steps Ahead philosophy. Whether you're trying to hire the right people or get your team on track, this is the place for accurate, useful information. Stephen is an expert on leadership and organizational development, a consultant and professional speaker, and author of \x34The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development,\x34 published by McGraw-Hill, and a contributing author to volume one of \x34Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play.\x34 Contact Steve at steve@7stepsahead.com.
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By steve
May 22, 2013 12:14 p.m.

As published in MeasureIT
 

“There is no me. I had it surgically removed.”

– Peter Sellers

At one high tech company that I worked with, I watched an interesting scenario unfold: after completing a major milestone, the engineers were high-fiving and taking some time to brag about their accomplishments. Enthusiasm and excitement were running high when a member of senior management decided to interrupt the gathering with the reminder that, “There is no ‘I’ in team.”

This utterance had an effect not dissimilar to that of a skunk wandering into a fancy dinner party. On the scale of wet blankets, this was one that had been left out in the rain for a week. Within a few seconds, all that enthusiasm was gone, vanished into the ether. Properly harnessed, that enthusiasm could have catapulted the team into its next milestone. Instead, the team approached its next milestone with a shocking lack of energy, especially given the successes they’d had to that point.

The problem is that while there may not be an “I” in team, a team is made up of individuals. There are three “I”’s in individual. What does a team do? Well, in most situations we hope the team will win. There’s an “I” right there in the middle of win. Oddly enough, you can’t win if you take out the “I.”

While it’s critical for a team to be able to work together and for members of the team not to be competing with one another, that’s only a piece of the puzzle. It’s equally important that each member of the team feel that they are an integral part of the team’s success. Without that personal connection, it’s extremely difficult to get people excited about the work.

Unfortunately, I see companies far too often treating team members as interchangeable parts, not as unique individuals. Not only does this undermine the team, it is also a tremendous waste of resources: a major advantage of having a team is that you have access to multiple eyes, ears, hands, and brains. Each person brings unique skills, knowledge, and perspective to the problems the team is facing. When a company fails to take advantage of those people, then they are spending a great deal of money for very little return.

In the Mann Gulch disaster, Wagner Dodge failed to appreciate the perspectives and opinions his team brought to the table. He relied solely on his own eyes, ears, and brains. Had he bothered to obtain information from the rest of his team, it is highly likely that most of them would not have perished under Dodge’s command. When the team has no “I,” the team cannot see.

On the flip side, some companies go too far in the other direction. One company, that shall remain nameless, spends so much time on “I” that there’s no time left for “we.” There have no team; there’s only a group of people who happen to be wandering in something vaguely approximating the same direction. Meetings are characterized by constant jockeying for position and arguments over turf. Different groups in the company see themselves as competing with one another for the favor of the CEO and for the eventual rewards. Oddly enough, the level of excitement and commitment in this situation is about the same as the one in which there is no “I.” When you have too much “I,” no one can agree on what they are seeing. In other words, too much “I” or a missing “I” produce much the same degree of blindness. That’s not good for the individuals, the team, or the company.

So how do you make sure you have the right “I?”

Start by creating something worth seeing. Paint a vivid picture of the company’s future, and show each person how they, as individuals, matter. Remind employees of the skills, knowledge, perspectives, and abilities that led to them being part of the team.

Show each person how they fit into the overall picture, and how their colleagues fit in as well. Make sure each person has a clue about what the others are doing. Ignorance breeds contempt.

Strengthen individual autonomy: find opportunities to allow people to decide how they’ll get their jobs done. Don’t regulate anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to getting the product out the door.

Always praise successes. Highlight significant contributions, remind people of their strengths.

Encourage and provide opportunities for team members to continuously develop their strengths. Improving individual skills dramatically improves team performance.

For a team to win, it needs to see where it’s going. That requires the team to have “I”’s and something to look at. How can you provide both to your team?

“There is no me. I had it surgically removed.”
– Peter Sellers
At one high tech company that I worked with, I watch
ed an interesting scenario unfold: after completing a
major milestone, the engineers were high-fivi
ng and taking some time to brag about their
accomplishments. Enthusiasm and excitement were
running high when a member of senior management
decided to interrupt the gathering with the reminder that, “There is no ‘I’ in team.”
This utterance had an effect not dissimilar to that of
a skunk wandering into a fancy dinner party. On the
scale of wet blankets, this was one t
hat had been left out in the rain for a week. Within a few seconds, all
that enthusiasm was gone, vanished into the ether
. Properly harnessed, that enthusiasm could have
catapulted the team into its next milestone. In
stead, the team approached
its next milestone with a
shocking lack of energy, especially given t
he successes they’d had to that point.
The problem is that while there may not be an “I” in
team, a team is made up of individuals. There are
three “I”’s in individual. What does a team do? Well, in
most situations we hope the team will win. There’s
an “I” right there in the middle of win. Oddly
enough, you can’t win if you take out the “I.”
While it’s critical for a team to be able to work t
ogether and for members of the team not to be competing
with one another, that’s only a piece of the puzzle.
It’s equally important that each member of the team
feel that they are an integral part
of the team’s success. Without that
personal connection, it’s extremely
difficult to get people excited about the work.
Unfortunately, I see companies far too often treati
ng team members as interchangeable parts, not as
unique individuals. Not only does this undermine the team
, it is also a tremendous waste of resources: a
major advantage of having a team is that you have
access to multiple eyes, ears, hands, and brains.
Each person brings unique skills, knowledge, and perspec
tive to the problems the team is facing. When a
company fails to take advantage of
those people, then they are spending
a great deal of money for very
little return.
In the Mann Gulch disaster, Wagner Dodge failed to
appreciate the perspectives and opinions his team
brought to the table. He relied solely on his ow
n eyes, ears, and brains. Had he bothered to obtain
information from the rest of his team, it is highly
likely that most of them would not have perished under
Dodge’s command. When the team has no “I,” the team cannot see.
On the flip side, some companies go too far in the other direction. One company, that shall remain
nameless, spends so much time on “I” that there’s no
time left for “we.” There have no team; there’s only
a group of people who happen to be wandering in some
thing vaguely approximating the same direction.
Meetings are characterized by constant jockeying fo
r position and arguments over turf. Different groups in
the company see themselves as competing with
one another for the favor of the CEO and for the
eventual rewards. Oddly enough, the level of excite
ment and commitment in this situation is about the
same as the one in which there is no “I.” When you
have too much “I,” no one can agree on what they are
Stephen
R
Balzac
www.7stepsahead.com
Page
2
seeing. In other words, too much “I” or a missing “I”
produce much the same degree of blindness. That’s
not good for the individuals, the team, or the company.
So how do you make sure you have the right “I?”
Start by creating something worth seeing. Paint a vi
vid picture of the company’s future, and show each
person how they, as individuals, matter. Remind empl
oyees of the skills, kn
owledge, perspectives, and
abilities that led to them being part of the team.
Show each person how they fit into the overall pictur
e, and how their colleagues fit in as well. Make sure
each person has a clue about what the other
s are doing. Ignorance breeds contempt.
Strengthen individual autonomy: find opportunities to
allow people to decide how they’ll get their jobs
done. Don’t regulate anything that isn’t absolutely
necessary to getting the product out the door.
Always praise successes. Highlight significant
contributions, remind people of their strengths.
Encourage and provide opportunities for team memb
ers to continuously develop their strengths.
Improving individual skills dramatically improves team performance.
For a team to win, it needs to see where it’s going.
That requires the team to have “I”’s and something to
look at. How can you provide both to your team?

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