The "I" in Team
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
If I hear one more smug, self-satisfied ignoramus tells me "there is no "I" in team, I think I'll smack him.
A team isn't a commune or religious order. It's not built on the ideal of suppressing oneself and stamping out individual desires and ambitions. Instead, a team is made up of people selected for their individual abilities with the hope each will provide something different and beneficial. Individual contributions that will create a whole that is "greater than the sum of its parts," as the saying goes.
In fact, if you have a group of very compatible, non-competitive people looking only toward agreeing upon a solution that bests serves the interests of the company, you're just going to get a boring, unproductive team. Just as if you have a group of ego-maniacs who only struggle for whose individual idea is going to dominate, you get an annoying, unproductive team.
A high-performance, high-productivity team is made up of bright, creative people with many individual differences, ambitions and personal goals, who say "I think," "I want," "I don't agree," and many other "I" phrases -- a lot. Because they've each got great ideas that everyone should hear and debate. Such a team also includes calm, mature, managerial types who can help keep the peace between the debaters and help the leader keep the debates organized and coherent. Such a team has a level-headed leader who commands the respect of the members and can orchestrate the chaotic process many would call a "cat parade."
The big secret to running a highly productive team is in that leader who has one big "I." As in "I am in charge."