A couple posts back, in my discussion of self-efficacy, I made a trend-bucking comment that “there IS an I in team“. I’d like to add some additional thoughts to help explain why I say that.
The “baby boom” generation, of which I am among the youngest members, passed through the 1950s and 1960s with an amazing sense of optimism. We tend to think we can do anything – and that’s good. We also tend to think we can BE anything and HAVE anything – that’s also (potentially) good. The oldest members of our generation inherited their “Greatest Generation” parents’ work ethic and blended it nicely with their new found optimism – that’s really good. By the time my piece of the boomer generation was coming of age, though, we sometimes seemed to have allowed that honorable zeitgeist to degenerate.
We younger boomers have held onto our belief that we can be, and have, anything; but, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking the world owes it to us. This does not mean we don’t work our asses off – we do. But, when we don’t get everything we want from life, even when we are working our asses off, we simply can’t accept it. We want to blame politicians (who deserve plenty of blame), corporations (over-blamed, IMHO), and our culture (the biggest contributor). We seem unable to simply TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. Other factors certainly play into our success or failure, and we can’t control everything; but, these days, we rarely hold ourselves accountable for the job of improving the subset of things over which we DO have control. Taking responsibility is something that a lot of us and our children, and now grandchildren, simply seem to avoid.
This brings me to why I say “there IS an I in team”.
We know all the buzzwords. We say “it takes a village“. We “crowd-source“ our decisions. We take “community responsibility“. We strive to be “team players“. We understand the “wisdom of networks“. And then, when something good happens – when we win a big deal with a customer, say – we all congratulate “the team” – that’s really good too!
But it’s interesting to see what happens when something good doesn’t happen. All the crowd-sourced, networked, team-playing, village people, seem to either take only “team responsibility” or to switch over to that old outdated “individual” model and start playing blame games.
So…….. why is that?
Teams are important. Critical, in fact. Synergy is an incontestable value derived from networks. We can do more, and we can do it faster, with a well crafted team than we can alone. The problem is that a “well crafted team” relies on personal achievement (as I said a couple posts ago) as well as on integrity, commitment-keeping, and accountability. All of those traits are PERSONAL traits. Without them team members have no basis for trust. If we ignore the required individual attributes of each team member, then we can crowd-source all the decisions we want among the villagers but we will never perform OPTIMALLY.
I propose that one should not strive simply to build acceptable teams but, rather, should aim to build optimal ones. Doing that requires each team member to take personal responsibility and to hold himself personally accountable. In other words, personal responsibility and personal accountability are requirements of optimal team performance.
And…. why do I say that “there IS an I in team”?
As a member of a team it is necessary to say “I will take responsibility for that task”, “I hold myself accountable to finish that project”, “I have an idea to share”, and perhaps most important of all:
“I take responsibility for that decision: I expect the credit for it when we succeed and I will take the blame for it if we fail”.
I don’t see much of that these days. But, to be honest, I don’t always practice what I just preached, either. Then again, acknowledging the importance of personal responsibility, personal accountability, and personal integrity is the first step to improving my ability to accept them. So, I place myself further along the path than many of my “co-boomers” and I encourage everyone to join in on the journey.