Why the “Me” in Team Matters

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Aug 26, 2020

I’m sure all of you have had that one friend, family member, or colleague who has thrown out the famous, “There’s no “I” in team, but there is a “Me”!” quote. Sure, 9 out of 10 times that type of person means it selfishly, but today I’m going to tell you why the “Me” in “team” is actually the most important element.

What’s the purpose of a team? To collaborate, share, and build together, right? Of course! But what’s the single-most important thing about a team? Each member of the team being able to execute their portion of the project. What’s the phrase? “A team is only as strong as its weakest link.”. Too often team members are overly concerned about what others are doing, that they choose to put energy towards that rather than towards their individual performance. Don’t get me wrong, accountability is extremely important in a team setting, but I’m not talking about accountability.

I’m talking about the choice that Billy makes when he’s overly concerned about what Anthony is doing, or not doing. Billy, rather than holding Anthony accountable and speaking directly to him about his concerns, chooses to take his concerns and dump them on Sally. “Have you seen Anthony’s work? It’s just not what the boss asked for. I don’t think he’s going to get it done on time. Sucks for him!”. Well, now you’ve got two team members who are focusing their energy on what others AREN’T doing, rather than perfecting their own performance, or even helping Anthony out.


This goes on for hours and hours or even worse, for days! You know how drama is, people gravitate to it like flies on you know what….


Deadline day approaches and the team is giving their presentation to their leadership team. Billy stands up and goes over his portion of the presentation, hitting all of his notes and accomplishing all aspects of the task, as he sees it. Anthony stands up for his portion of the presentation and stumbles his way through it. While a bit clunky, he manages to get through it making all of his points somewhat clearly. His team breathes a deep sigh of relief as they didn’t think he’d get through it. Lastly comes the anchor, the strongest member of this particular team, Sally. Sally gets up there and everyone on the team almost tunes out as to expect her to knock it out of the park.

Sally begins to speak…. Until she doesn’t. Oh no! The team looks up as Sally is frozen in place. She’s forgotten her talking points. Stumbling and mumbling, she’s visibly upset by her inability to perform in the clutch. Her team members begin to make gestures to help her remember and suddenly she remembers enough to get through the performance. The leadership team is left dazed and confused wondering what in the world they just witnessed as Sally is typically one of their top performers, especially when it comes to presentations. So what happened on this particular day? Was Sally sleep deprived? Did she forget her cup of coffee?


No. She was ill-prepared.


All of the time spent talking with Billy about Anthony’s performance, took time away from her preparing for this presentation. Minutes turned into hours, hours turned into days, and the next thing you know, you’ve spent half of your 40-hour work week soaking in the drama talking about someone else and how terrible they are at their job. Next thing you know, you’ve really only stolen that time from yourself.

See, this could have all been avoided if Billy didn’t become an energy vampire to Sally. He came into her workspace, dumped negative energy onto her desk, and she jumped right in. Sure, Anthony might not have been the strongest member of the team, but he got through his presentation, and chances are, the leadership team set their level of expectations for his performance. Maybe Anthony isn’t the strongest when it comes to formal presentations, but maybe his managers see his analytical strengths and see enough value there to keep him on the team. While others may not see this, it’s a quality that’s necessary to keep the wheels turning. He’s a silent leader.

 

When working on a team, it’s important to embrace other team members’ strengths. Accountability is necessary when working with teams. However, accountability must first start with one’s self. If Billy would have taken a moment to reflect on how he can best support the team, he might have realized that by focusing on his own tasks or even offering Anthony some support, the team might have performed better. Had he focused on himself at that moment, he wouldn’t have loaded Sally up with office drama, which ultimately led to her giving the worst performance of her professional career.

Negative energy can have a domino effect on a business. If Sally would have taken a moment and told Billy, “You know, we should see if Anthony needs help” or even, “you know what, he’ll figure his part out, all we can do is focus on what we need to do”, she probably would have knocked her presentation out of the park, as she had done it thousands of times before.


At the end of the day, we’re all responsible for ourselves. While a team requires collaboration and accountability, it only works if every member pulls their own weight, however that may look. Believe it or not, we become the best kind of teammate when we stick to our own assignment. Look at a football team, if the right guard is worried about the center doing his job, he’s going to forget he’s supposed to be blocking Chris Jones (Go Chiefs!) and the next thing you know, your QB is flat on his back. So, if you want the best possible outcome from working together, focus on the “Me” in “team”. You won’t regret it. 

 

Author: Ben Guertin, TCS Managing Partner