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Team Effectiveness Begins with Individual Effectiveness

Team effectiveness workshops are all the rage these days. But there's only so much a team can do together if the individual members of the team aren't also enabled for and committed to boosting their own effectiveness.

Two common misunderstandings prevent a focus on individual effectiveness. I've recently encountered examples of both. You probably have, too.

When individuals on a team are too quick to blame others for the lack of team effectiveness, they miss the chance to do their own part. I see this when I survey teams and ask them to rate the behaviors of their own work group or selves and, separately, the behaviors of other work groups or individuals. More often than not, respondents rate themselves and their own teams higher than they rate others. Conversely, those individuals and teams are rated lower by the other teams. Not everyone can be right in their unfavorable assessment of others... So what's going on here?

It's a classic defensive response, one that reflexively casts blame instead of looking holistically at the situation. We are all inclined to make these negative assumptions first. It takes time and openness to acknowledge that team effectiveness involves all members of the team.

Sometimes this blame is cast exclusively on the team's leaders. Employees expect the leaders to change without being willing to make any changes of their own. When they take this position, they are abdicating their own power -- the power of their numbers and their collective impact -- rather than stepping in to drive positive change.

Similarly, when a leader or leadership team believes they are solely capable of boosting team effectiveness, they fail to leverage the collective strengths of all team members. They drive results today instead of developing capacity for tomorrow. They micro-manage and pay attention only to productivity metrics. While this may yield improved results in the short term, this approach will eventually lead to burn out, churn out and impaired team effectiveness.

True team effectiveness comes from the collective effectiveness and commitment of each individual on the team. An "all for one and one for all" attitude is essential. Leaders must foster this kind of culture and provide development and enablement opportunities for strengthening each member of the team. Team members must do their own part to communicate, collaborate and contribute for the good of the team.

If your team is adrift or at odds, consider how you can boost individual effectiveness. Look, too, at how you can build connections and understanding between team members. And don't forget to look at the example you are setting. With a holistic approach, you can improve team effectiveness and create a workplace where there really is no "I" in team.

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