Don’t Be Led Astray By the Conspiracy of the Team Player
I’ve been thinking about the concept of the “team player” and the one time I had the outstanding pleasure of playing on a true team that built a business. I built a team or two and saw them dismantled by situations that undermined and contradicted true collaboration.
Why is that we do so much talking about being part of “the team,” when the underlying message is something different?
Think about it.
We learned to walk, talk, eat without benefit of a team.
No team could teach me to balance a bike or tread water to save my life.
Anyone who’s tried to pass on their experience at any of those skills knows that we learn them individually.
At school, we get individual report cards.
We get graded or assessed on our own performance.
We’re not supposed to share our homework.
We graduate as one person.
Our job applications are about what we as individuals have done.
We get hired alone.
We get raises and reprimands on our own.
We get an individual performance appraisal — it might speak to our team’s performance, but the rest of the team isn’t in the room.
And when we get fired, “the team” is told not to talk to us.
Where’s the team in all of that? What is a team anyway?
How to Break the Conspiracy of the Team Player to Build a Peak Performing 2012 Team
It’s a conspiracy that we ask people to be team players in situations that don’t offer a team. To break the conspiracy, we have to shift our thoughts to the community that is the team by valuing their contribution more than their job roles.
A true team is a group of people with complimentary skills who coordinate, delegate, and collaborate in ways that enable each person to invest peak performance moving the team forward to it’s highest goals. Great teams, like great leaders, are self-aware in that they know what each person should be doing more of and what each person should be doing less of — how each person contributes to the strongest team. When the team loses or adds a team member the team looks to fill a skill set that the team needs to be even stronger at what they do. Leadership is a quality shared by every team member no matter the level or area of expertise.
How do you get to a team like that?
- Hire leaders who share your values. Look for self-aware people who know their skills and have their ego intact. Leaders want to build something they can’t build alone. People who share your values will choose the same decisions as you will.
- Hire to the team. Don’t hire individuals. Hire one high performer and determine the key area at which he or she excels in his or her given job role and focus that role to take advantage of that. Then look for the additional skills in your next hires. In other words, adjust the job descriptions to enhance the performance of the best talent you find.
- Build out the team the same way. When a someone leaves the team, pull out the existing job description and have the team compare it to their own existing skill sets. What skills on that description are already covered well by two or more people on the team? Rewrite the new description to balance what you’ve got. For example if your marketing person leaves team and everyone on the team is social business savvy, write the new job description to find someone who “gets” social, but “lives” marketing data and analytics.
- Expect true team behavior and incentivize it. Lay out your goals and hold a quarterly appraisal for team performance that is tied to earnings. Move the team to solve their own problems ciollaboratively in the same the build their budgets and strategies. High performing teams thrive when they have
- common goals — an agreement to work to achieve the same mission.
- open communication — honest sharing of information that allows the team to move things forward efficiently
- shared values — an agreement on what defines the standards of good behavior and good work
- commitment to the group — every member inextricably bound to the team’s success
- processes that support a culture of teamwork — the focus is on great performers who attract and nurture other great performers, because they’re truly fans of great performing teams.
If it’s your goal to build a true team, trust the great performers you already have to help you start.
Be a fan of great performers who are fans of great performers. Ask them what they need to perform at their peak and give them as much of that as you can. Constantly remove roadblocks and keep finding ways that they can do more of what they do well and less of what they do only adequately. Encourage everyone to notice others’ strongest skills and how the team might better use them..
How will you break the conspiracy of the team player to build a peak performing team in 2012?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!
Christa M. Miller says
Ha! I’ve never been an especially good team player, meaning I’m not good at playing politics or conforming to the expectations of those who have been on the team longer, or who have more political power, than me. This blog post articulates why, and more importantly, is good for individuals (like self-employed consultants) who are looking for the right client fit!