The High Cost of the I in Teams

Every Team is Full of I's.You’ve probably heard the saying about how “there is no I in team.”

It’s catchy. It’s cute. And, with all due respect to former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Vernon Law and others who have used it to encourage teamwork, its wrong!

Teams are made up of individuals – “I’s” – who are together to achieve something. defines “team” as: a number of persons associated in some joint action.

Each of us is unique. We’re all individuals. We have our individual needs, our individual values, our individual beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and talents. This is called the “whole person concept.” And it drives our individual behavior.

This uniqueness, this individuality, also dictates:

  • The kind of team member we’ll be
  • The goals and strategies we’ll find motivating
  • How we’ll communicate
  • Whether we’ll roll with change or fight it
  • And whether or not we’ll have productive, healthy conflict

And all of this individuality can cost our businesses, companies, and organizations millions of dollars each year in lost productivity, turnover, re-work, retaliation and conflict. Take a quick look at some surprising statistics.

But what if there was a way to utilize that individuality to reduce the high cost of the “I” in teams? Here are the four things that you can do:

1.  It begins with the “I” you hire. Will this individual be a team member focused on joint actions?

2.  The best teams, the highest-performing ones, create a cohesive unit through honoring each member’s unique contributions and making individuals feel included and valued for who they are, as individuals. The best teams achieve joint actions through commitment.

3.  Each person has perspectives, skill sets, and experiences. Find out what these are for each member of your team, the manner in which they can be contributed, and use that information to leverage them in joint actions! Establish accountability measures for what each “I” contributes.

4.  Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more! Teams require direct and honest feedback. That feedback is vital to ensure positive momentum – or to redirect individuals or actions that are misaligned.

Yes, teams are worth it. Team members need to feel a part of the process and vested and connected to outcomes. Otherwise, it’s just another thing on the increasingly long to-do list.

If you’d like to learn more about how to leverage the “I’s” for Growing A Winning Team – Let’s Talk!

Your Partner in Alignment,


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