There’s No “I” in Team (But there is “me”)

No I in Team but there's me

You’ve probably heard the saying.  You may have even said it.  I think it’s quite funny.  It’s probably just my weird sense of humor, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

I know what the saying means, and what people who say it are referring to.  There’s no room for selfishness when it comes to being a part of a team, just as there’s no space for egotistical and narcissistic behavior.  I’m sure you’ve worked with people like that, as I have, and it makes for a very tough work environment.

All teams are made up of individuals, and there is an individual responsibility to make the team work. What, then is an individual’s obligation to the team, and where does individual effort come into play?  Here are several things that make a team player effective.

Team Players Buy into the Vision

A leader needs to set a clear and compelling vision, but the team members must buy into that vision, and know that the success of the team is dependent on their commitment to it and their work towards it.  Team members buy into the vision and dedicate themselves to knowing their role in the vision and doing their part to accomplish it.

Team Players Serve Others

Part of what makes a great team is a willingness on the part of team members to really serve each other.  It’s amazing to be a part of a group that serves each other – not out of selfish motives or a “payback” attitude, but just out of a desire to see the team function well.

Teams who have members that function like this grow an atmosphere of trust that yells, “I’ve got your back!”  It is evident not only to the members of the team, but to everyone this team comes into contact with.

Team Players Help Others Succeed

This is similar to the characteristic above, but goes a step further.  You can serve someone without helping them succeed.  I believe team members should be each other’s biggest cheerleaders.  Often, we get into this competitive mode (which can serve its purpose), but more often than not it keeps people from collaborating effectively.

Seek others success, and you will be a success.  Find ways you can really help others succeed.  Go the extra mile to assist your team mates.

Team Players Know Their Strengths

I’m a big proponent of strength-based work theory.  There’s too much to go into in this blog post, but the main premise is that people do better when they work in their areas of strength and minimize their work in weak areas.  (As opposed to focusing on improving weak areas).

There are plenty of personality and strength assessment tools to use. One of my favorites is the StrengthsFinder 2.0.  It’s a very quick assessment that shows you your top 5 strengths out of 34.  Based on the results, a leader can shift team members around to work in their area(s) of giftedness.

Check out the Team Building Resources page for more personality assessments and strength assessment resources I recommend.

Team Players Ask for Help

Everyone needs help at some point.  No one person can do it or know it all.  When I was working with students at a high school, we would talk about their grades and if they needed tutoring, I would tell them, “Don’t suffer in silence.”  Meaning, there are plenty of resources for help.  There’s no need to suffer.

The same is true for a team.  Even if you’re not part of a team where everyone willingly helps each other out, you probably know someone who has the answer or resource you need to be more effective.  Don’t be afraid to ask.

Team Players are Constant Learners

The strongest team players that I’ve worked with do not need to be told to learn.  They are constant learners and are self-directed in this area.  You can tell the “hungry” team mates from those just wanting a pay check or recognition.  Typically, they are quick to take the credit and last to do the work.  Interesting, yes?

The hungry learners ask you what they can read and do and the best way to grow.  They see you as a mentor and are also hard-workers.  They know their strengths and also know where they need to grow.  They might now always know how to do something or how to improve, but you can tell that they want to and that they are loyal to the team and to you.  These are the ones to pour yourself into and invest in.  It will pay off huge dividends!

If you work on these, then you will be an effective “I” in the team, or “me”, whichever you prefer!  🙂 And, hopefully, we can change that saying together!

What else do you see as an effective characteristic of a team player?  What area does your team need to work on?  Let me know in the comments below.  

Photo credit: Big Stock Photo by muzsy, Stock Photo 40606411

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