“You are not a team player!“
In most organizations these are fighting words. No one wants to get brushed with this reputation!
Much too often we use “Team” as this broad, self-defining term. It is as if the word says it all and clearly infers a set of behaviors and expectations.
All too often I see a Leader with a Team to manage, but he/she doesn’t define the corresponding expectations, roles or norms desired. Without these behavioral guidelines, it is extremely difficult to transition from a group of individuals to a functioning collective (aka – Team).
As a leader, you must avoid this common mistake. Don’t tolerate too much ambiguity with your Team’s purpose. Do the work and bring clarity.
The first step is to determine the team model appropriate for your situation. While volumes have been written on this topic, I’m going to cheat and use 4 classic sports to make my point.
Review the range of teams below and their unique distinctions. I present them in a range from the least to the most interdependent.
A Golf Team – There is no interdependency in this style of team. The key is individual performance. If all team members perform well – there is a strong likelihood of success. You don’t need your teammates to help you perform. Your actions are predominately independent, but connected to a collective deliverable.
A Baseball Team – With this model, individual performance is still critical the majority of the time. You need to metaphorically ‘field well’, ‘bat well’ and make smart decisions as an individual. However, there are known circumstances where a high-level of interdependence and synergy are required for success. Turning a ‘double play’, ‘picking someone off a base’, ‘backing up teammates’ during complex plays are all examples of the dependency needed. Teams that function like a well oiled machine in these circumstances do well.
A Basketball Team – There is a lot of interdependency, coordination and communication necessary for this team model to work. You have defined roles, but can mix it up when needed. An individual can “take over” for awhile, but the collective soon comes back. Maximizing individual talents in a fluid and ever changing manner is a differentiator. It takes strong team skills to work this model.
A Football Team – This model has the highest level of interdependency. Everyone needs to be in complete harmony to perform well. There are highly defined roles/expectations and not much ability to change roles. Your performance has direct impact on the performance of your teammate. You win and lose as a collective – no one person can carry the day. There are a wide range of skills and they are utilized for particular tasks. You must know your role and play it well to win.
These represent the classic variations of “Team” using interdependency as the differentiator. While not hard science, it should help you see the differences.
Consider this – if you behave as if you’re on a “Football” team and I think I’m on a “Golf” team – it is no wonder you accuse me of being a bad team player! We are operating with two extremely different sets of expectation.
Once you determine the type of team needed, start clarifying the type of behavior required for success. Define the roles and responsibilities. Specify where and when coordination and cooperation is needed. Build the clarity needed to perform.
Do the Work:
- Pick your Team Type: Think of the team you lead (or you are on) – Select the Team Model that best fits the team’s mission/charter.
- Define and Clarity Roles: Define the roles and expectations needed for that type of team.
- Specify the interdependencies and “double plays.” Clearly define when, where and who are involved in accomplishing work needing more than one person.
- Build your “Team skills”: Learn how to make decisions, solve problems, and set priorities as a group. It is a completely different skill when working with others (as opposed to alone).
- Practice, Practice, Practice: It takes work to succeed as a Team. Unless you are a “Golf Team” you need to spend time as a collective trying to master the synergy, communication, coordination and skills.
Being on a Team sounds sexy, but it is hard work. Most Leaders are not as diligent as they should be to define the type of team needed to succeed and/or the roles and expectations required.
With some effort, you can be sure your team is hitting it out of the park! Please share this message using the buttons below with colleagues who are on teams. Thanks!