⚠️ Unpopular Opinion ⚠️
We’ve all heard the phrase “There’s no ‘I’ in team!”. In its healthy form, it’s meant to spur on the idea of banding together and committing to a “team” mindset. While this chant can be helpful, I don’t believe it’s the full picture. I know, I know, there might be a large objection rising inside of you–but stay with me for a moment.
A team is made up of individuals and I want to propose bringing the “I” back with a new phrase:
“There is an “I” in Team i ng!”
Please hear me when I say that the original phrase isn’t necessarily bad or wrong , but I think we can be more precise with our words. When we strip away the individual aspect, it’s easy to lose sight of personal ownership and the importance of using your influence wisely.
Sometimes, leaders use this phrase to avoid taking responsibility, and instead of bringing everyone closer, it can reinforce an unhealthy view of teamwork. Working in a team is striking a healthy balance between dedication to the team and your own individual growth.
We are constantly managing the tension of this line in our wor k . If we’r e overly dedicated to ourselves, we miss out o n the beauty of working together with people from different background s , experiences, and personalities. We miss out o n the growth that can only come from working closely alongside others that are far different from us.
On the other hand , when we have an extreme d edication to our team, we miss ourselves and in doing so we also miss the team. While perfect “balance” may never be achieved, we can continually audit where we find ourselves leaning and where we migh t have a bias to lean.
In psychology, there is a concept called “deindividuation.” It’s when you lose your sense of self and awareness in a group, and it often happens when you’re part of a big crowd or team. You become less accountable for your actions, critical thinking takes a back seat, and it’s easy to get carried away with the group.
A few extreme examples of what unhealthy dedication can lead to are listed below:
1. Lack of Initiative + Risk
As a team member, you might wait for team directives or consensus before acting. This passivity can lead to a lack of personal ownership when practicing decision-making and problem-solving. You may also become risk-averse and less willing to take ownership of innovative or unconventional ideas because you fear that such ideas could jeopardize team unity or success.
2. Loss of Individual Identity
It can be easy to prioritize the team’s identity and goals over your personal identity and aspirations. This can result in a diminished sense of personal ownership of your own career development and individual goals.
Making the team’s goals a priority is not wrong but the meaning behind the work you do becomes more powerful when you tie it back to who you want to become. You as an individual need to continue to learn, grow, and be well rounded. That also enables you to bring your best self to the team.
3. Blurred Boundaries
When dedication to the team is paramount, personal responsibilities and tasks may become secondary. This can lead to a situation where individuals are less committed to personal goals or tasks, impacting their personal aspirations and boundaries. By having a lack of healthy boundaries, over a long period of time, you may feel burnt out and uninspired in your role.
4. Dependency on the Team’s Success
As a highly dedicated team member, you may tie your sense of accomplishment and self-worth solely to the team’s success. This can be devastating when your team misses the “mark”. While the mentality “we all succeed or none of us do” can be motivating, it’s important to track your personal progression and achievements.
For example, y ou may have brought your best self to the table and owned even more than your role in the project, but because of factors outside your control, the team still failed. It’s still important to recognize and celebrate that you gave it your all despite the negative outcome.
Putting the “I” Back in “Team”
The ability to serve your team begin s with self-awareness, ownership, personal values, accountability, and holistic health. From that place, we are able to pour out. Being for the team doesn’t mean being against ourselves . The more connected we are with ourselves, the better our teams are.
It’s essential to find that balance between being a team player and holding onto your individuality and personal responsibility. In their book, The Wisdom of Teams , Jon Katzenbach and Douglas K, Smith have define a team as:
“A small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”
Technically, there is an “I” in team — quite a few of them actually! (My grammar police readers are still disagreeing. D on’t worry, I see you!) In a team, acknowledging the “I” highlights an individual ’s unique strengths, talents , aspirations, and efforts which is key to unlocking the full potential of teaming.
Extreme personal ownership within the team takes center stage in this approach. It means that every team member not only has a role but also a profound sense of accountability for their contributions, decisions, and outcomes. Here are a few examples:
1. Unleashing Individual Potential
Personal ownership empowers you to fully utilize your talents and skills. In your role, this allows you to excel in your area of expertise, leading to higher-quality work and innovative solutions.
2. Accountability and Responsibility
Putting the “I” in team means that you are responsible for your actions and commitments. This heightened accountability ensures that tasks are completed efficiently and that not only you, but everyone pulls their weight, reducing the risk of slacking.
3. Enhanced Problem Solving and Decision-Making
When you embrace personal ownership, you are more likely to proactively identify and address challenges. This encourages you to be better equipped to make decisions within your area of responsibility.
4. Continuous Growth and Learning
A high regard for personal ownership fosters a culture of continuous improvement. As a team member you are motivated to seek opportunities for personal development and skill enhancement, benefiting not only yourself but the entire team.
5. Empowerment and Motivation
Taking ownership of your role and contributions leads to a sense of empowerment and intrinsic motivation. It cultivates a deeper connection to the team’s success, driving you to go the extra mile.
6. Effective Communication
When you understand and embrace your unique roles, communication within the team becomes more efficient. The team can truly celebrate differences and conflicts well because there’s an equal desire for the team’s growth and individual growth. Each of you knows what you’re responsible for and communicate effectively about progress, challenges, and needs.
Putting the “I” back in team with a strong emphasis on extreme personal ownership is a transformative approach that can maximize the potential of teamwork. It celebrates the unique strengths and contributions of everyone, creating a culture of accountability, efficiency, innovation, and personal growth. When “I” becomes synonymous with ownership and responsibility, the collective “we” achieves new heights of success and fulfillment.
If you’ve resonated with the idea of putting the “I” back in team, recognizing the significance of individual contributions and extreme personal ownership, you’re already on the path to becoming an even more valuable team member.
But why stop there? To fully harness the potential of this transformative approach to teamwork, consider taking our online digital course: Team Work focuses on enhancing your teamwork skills and embracing personal ownership.