Building a successful team takes work.
It doesn’t take much for most of us to call to mind the challenges of being on a team—class project anyone? Teaming is tough because it involves bringing multiple personalities, perspectives, and approaches together. It requires us to put aside the freedom that comes from doing everything our own way and instead invest relational effort in creating alignment and moving forward together. It’s hard.
And because it’s hard, many team members focus on themselves, choosing to serve their own needs, rather than the needs of the team. They turn to self-protection and self-advancement thinking that approach will bring the success and fulfillment they are seeking. I know I find myself here at times. Unfortunately, this leads to the dysfunction and frustration that defines so many people’s experience with teams.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Teams can be places of great personal fulfillment. Teams can be life-giving communities and powerful tools for the achievement of great things.
The key is for each member to put team before self, to shift their mindset from “me first” to “team first.”
And, as a result, everyone on the team benefits.
At WinShape Teams, we believe the success and fulfillment of an individual team member is directly tied to the success and fulfillment of the team. This is why my colleague Russ Sarratt and I wrote our new book, Team Work: 13 Timeless Principles for Creating Success and Fulfillment as a Team Member. In it, we make the case that better teams are possible, and they start with you, the team member. Whatever your role, you have the ability to build strength, health, and fulfillment in the team.
We describe this type of approach as Servant Teamsmanship.
Imagine an experience where team members are committed to a common purpose and are willing to make sacrificial choices for the sake of the team. Team members help to carry each other’s burdens. They care deeply about their teammates and want to see them flourishing in every area of their lives. This is what a healthy team looks like, and this kind of team experience is achievable. It happens when individual team members apply a servant approach to their engagement with the team. In Team Work, Russ and I show you how.
As a team member, it is easy to think it is the leader’s responsibility to build a healthy team. When things go wrong, we look to the leader to fix the problem. But for a team to be strong and healthy, it takes the combined efforts of every single member. A healthy team requires personal sacrifice for the good of others, and the team as a whole.
A couple of years ago, I found myself on an island in the Indian ocean, interviewing one of the most successful team-sport athletes in the world. His name was Stuart Lynch and at the time of our interview, he had won the adventure racing world championships six times. A week after we spoke, he added a seventh title to the list. Reflecting on team member roles, Stu gave one of the best descriptions I’ve heard on the topic. He said, “I think a key thing is not to sort of think that you’ve got a specific task but always be thinking about what can I do to make the team work a bit better or to help this team out…not just trudging along and doing my thing but actually thinking, am I doing everything I can be doing at the moment to make sure we are getting a good result?”
There is so much power in that simple question. “Am I doing everything I can be doing at the moment to make sure we are getting a good result?” Am I looking up to see if someone else on the team needs help? Am I humbling myself to ask for help when I need it? Am I checking in with others to see how they are doing? Am I encouraging the others on my team? Am I keeping things in perspective, or derailing the team by making mountains out of molehills? Am I creating solutions or pointing out problems? Am I asking questions when I need information? Am I expecting the best or assuming the worst? In short, am I putting “me” first or “team” first?
Are you building a team where purposes are accomplished and people are fulfilled? Are you serving your team and creating value for others?
We all win or none of us do. Everyone wants to be on a healthy team, but not everyone is willing to do the work it takes to build one. You can make the difference. If you have been saying, “if only someone else would,” perhaps now is the time to say, “what can I do to make this team better?”