There is a well-known quote that there is no “I” in the word “team.” After all, team is spelled T-E-A-M. One catalog for team building materials uses TEAM to mean “Together Everyone Achieves More.” There's truth to that.
In real life though, using team building language, giving out mugs or hanging posters doesn’t automatically lead to a team working “like a well-oiled machine.” It takes time, effort, and understanding to truly relate as one, and it isn't going to happen unless each member does indeed focus on the missing “I” in “team.” Teamwork starts with YOU.
Teams are only as good as the members that belong to them. Yes, the whole is greater than the parts, but if the parts are defective, the team will be affected. (Hey, that sounds like another quip! “Parts Defective Means Teams Affected.”)
So, the place to start with team building is you. Here's an assessment to help you determine what type of a team player you really are. Ask yourself:
- Do I enjoy working with other people? (Some personalities would rather be in a corner doing tasks all day.)
- When I meet with other team members, do I contribute to the conversation? (Or do I sit and say nothing?)
- When I share my ideas, do I limit my words so others can contribute too?
- Do I want people to carry out my idea in exactly the way I envision it?
- Am I willing to ask questions to learn from others with a different expertise?
- If I'm naturally a take-charge person, do I willingly step back sometimes to open opportunities for those less likely to step up?
- Do I feel I am more experienced than the others on my team and that they should listen to me most of the time?
- Do I note what is going on with others by truly listening, acknowledging events like birthdays or accomplishments?
- Am I quick (but not insincere) in giving thanks and praise to others in the way they would most enjoy? (i.e. not embarrassing them)
- Do people come to me to ask for help? Am I approachable?
If you are really brave, after answering these questions, give them to your coworkers to answer anonymously on your behalf. Do the answers match up? Be prepared to make changes without defensiveness if something surprising is revealed to you. In the long run, that will be for your good and the good of the team! Make sure the “I” in your team is the best example of teamwork!
For creative ideas for team discussions and activities, check out my book, Boost Your Workplace Morale: A Practical Guide for Employees (and Their Managers).