How does a sense of team emerge where the whole is prioritized over the individual, especially in Western cultures where the emphasis is on the individual?
A team is a specific type of group where individuals come together to accomplish a shared purpose. In a team, the individual team members bring their unique talents and perspectives and work interdependently to achieve a unified outcome. This requires mutual responsibility, accountability, and support.
Move from a Focus on Individual Team Members to a Focus on the Team Purpose
With the complexity of today’s world, many companies are finding that individuals working by themselves but together with a common goal doesn’t rise to meet the demands of today’s complex and changing world. The creates an “every person for themselves” approach that falls short. Thus, the challenge for many companies today is to create true team where its “all for one and one for all”.
Forging individuals into a team requires the ability to create conditions where team members express their individual talents in service of the team, while keeping their focus on achieving the team’s purpose and serving the team’s stakeholders.
This is easier said than done because most people have been raised to focus on their own talents, needs, and goals. When this is the case, a focus on individuals is at the center of decision-making. Instead, this is where the team’s collective purpose, goals, and stakeholders should be. Consequently, the team can easily devolve back to being a group of individuals, each in pursuit of looking good individually.
As with most things in life, it’s a balancing act. A healthy team must strive for a balance between encouraging the individual team members to fully contribute while ensuring the shared team purpose drives the work.
Here are some things to monitor if you want to forge a collection of individuals into a high-performing or even transformative team:
Strive For Your Team’s Individual/Team Balance
A team leader along with the team must strive to create conditions where individual team members:
- know which unique skills, knowledge, and abilities they contribute to the team.
- are willing to reflect on their abilities and their limits to grow through the challenges of working with others.
- have interesting and purposeful tasks to perform.
- are willing to engage in productive conflict to find creative solutions with others.
- are willing to ask for and offer help when needed without judgment.
Additionally, the team as a whole must:
- agree upon a shared purpose, norms, goals/aspirations, and priorities.
- recognize and appreciate individual contributions and encourage individual growth.
- prioritize its work together with the stakeholders and shared purpose at the center.
- take collective responsibility to improve as a team and to assist each team member in their individual development
- engage in dialogue and productive conflict to find creative solutions
Warning Signs That You’re Losing the Individual/Team Balance
To strike that individual/team balance, there are also things to avoid. For example, signs that the focus is too much on individuals include:
- individual opinions and preferences drive decision-making over what’s best for the team and its stakeholders.
- the team allowing a louder or outspoken team member to dominate team discussions frequently.
- the team allows individual preferences or behavior to derail group progress towards a shared goal.
Signs that the team might be stifling individual participation include:
- group think sets in — team members don’t challenge interpretations or points of view out of habit or because they fear not being seen as “team players”.
- a dogmatic or misguided group personality emerges that isolates the team and creates difficult interactions with others outside the team.
- the team as a whole dismisses individual contributions (+ and -) that could lead to breakthroughs.
Building a great team is not easy. When you get full team member participation that serves the purpose of the team, it will be a thing of beauty.
WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more at bethstrathman.com.