The “I” in Team

by Sandy Nelson on February 10, 2015

Yes, of course I know that we all like to say that there is no “I” in team. But, let’s get real here.

Teams, like the organizations they represent, are collaborative social networks of individuals focused on a shared mission. For a team to perform at a world class level, so must the individuals that collectively comprise the team.

By the same token, teams that operate below peak do so because individual team members fail to step up to the plate at the level required by bringing the full force of their focus and creativity to the playing field.

The challenge in creating great teams is not to exorcize the “I” from the mix, but rather to find and bring together a group of “I’s” willing and committed to putting the best interests and success of the team first.

In the Super Bowl this year, great players worked together in disciplined collaboration to create one of the most exciting games in the history of the event. At any one time on the field, there were twenty-two “I’s” giving their all to win the big one for the team and its’ fans. A rookie, inspired by the moment and disciplined enough to prepare well, read a play and made the game winning interception at the last possible minute. Amazing!

But, let’s not forget that had the other 10 players on the Patriot’s defense not been doing their jobs, the opportunity for the interception would likely not have appeared. The team succeeded because ten “I’s” did their jobs at the highest level creating an opportunity for one to have a career moment.

Yes, when a gaggle of Geese flies, individuals take their turns in the lead and the others honk encouragement to inspire strong leadership. With this in mind we like to say, with good reason, that “we is greater than I”. But, let’s not forget that absent the “I”, there is no we.

The job of effective leadership is to inspire each “I” on the team while instilling a culture of we.

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