Everyone Shares Responsibility for Building a Strong Team
It's a delicate and often misunderstood balance.
Effective teams find the balance, though, and work hard to maintain it.
It's the balance between meeting group needs and individual needs.
The misunderstanding about teams is that someone (or everyone) must side aside their own interests and goals. The saying "there is no 'I' in team" perpetuates that inaccurate belief.
The very definition of team effectiveness states that it's about meeting both group and individual goals. Denying individual goals is unrealistic and a bit naive. It's a short-term band aid at best.
Building a Strong Team Starts with Strong Individuals
Strong teams start with strong individuals. Strong individuals bring their best to everything they do. They don't abandon what matters most to them in any situation.
Strong Individual styles also present when strong individuals come together. Once you couple personal styles and personal goals, you could set the stage for interpersonal conflict.
Imagine a team of 8 people. Each has a different style and a different goal. These are 8 strong-willed and determined people. When assembling them as a team, it may be tempting to ask for compromise and cooperation. A team leader might say things like "I need you to set aside your personal agenda" and "Just go along to get along because we've got work to do."
Disempowering a group of strong individuals isn't going to result in team work. Instead, you'll be left with a collection of unhappy people who are doing something they don't want to do. If you're asking them, even in implied ways, to water down their style and to do work that doesn't serve their primary goals, you will not get the best from them.
Building a Strong Team Requires Strong Individuals to Commit to the Team
At the same time, the assembled group of strong individuals does need to commit to the team and its shared objectives.
You'll get much stronger buy in for the team's work if it is also serves the needs of each individual on the team. A team of 8 doesn't have one goal. An effective team of 8 has 9 goals -- one collective and eight individual goals that everyone works on advancing.
This requires collaboration, a higher order skill than cooperation or compromise.
Collaboration seeks to meet all of the needs of all the involved parties. When people collaborate, they trust each other enough to openly share their goals and to ask for help. They acknowledge their own interests and do not feel a need for a hidden agenda.
True collaboration breeds true commitment.
For this to work, team members must know and respect each other. They must understand and value their differences. Sameness -- or the illusion of it -- is not the way to bring out the best from strong individuals.
Building a Strong Team Does Not Require Setting Aside Your Own Needs
If you are on a team that suggests your goals are unimportant or that your style is unwelcome, you should consider three things:
- It doesn't have to be this way. Unfortunately, many misunderstand and think group harmony requires a suppression of individual strengths. Developing a broader perspective where individual styles are embraced and celebrated takes time and may seem like optional and unnecessary work. It's not.
- You can use your voice to champion change and educate others about team effectiveness. Don't wait for someone else to introduce a different way of working together. Help others to understand that the most highly effective teams help individuals meet their goals while also striving to meet shared goals.
- Start by seeking to understand and then to be understood. It takes time to usher in change. It will help if you begin by asking others what they would like to achieve. Look for ways you can support their goals and, in turn, they will open up to the idea of reciprocating to support your goals, too.
Most team members and leaders start with good intentions. They believe that an altruistic approach means being selfless and denying individual needs. Most aren't asking this because they are self-serving. They just don't understand the potential of true collaboration. They haven't experienced team effectiveness at its finest.