What Teams are Made Of

Contributed by S. Chris Edmonds

Effective teams don’t happen by default; they happen by design. Leaders must engage team members to understand the impact of their influencing behaviors on team members: ensuring productivity and alignment while team members are treated daily with respect and dignity. Leaders can be proactive by crafting an organizational constitution for their team – then ensuring that everyone aligns their daily behaviors to it.


You’ve seen the poster that states “there is no ‘I’ in TEAM.” That statement promotes the concept of the “absence of individuals” on effective teams. Yet, every team has individuals. When those individuals align with the team’s organizational constitution – including the team’s servant purpose, values, behaviors, strategies, and goals – that team will be productive and positive and purposeful.


When those individuals don’t align with the team’s servant purpose, values, behaviors, strategies, and goals, productivity will be inconsistent, drama will prevail, and self-interest seems to be team members’ core purpose.


We need to look at the “AM” in TEAM.


Individual behaviors of team members are critically important; every team member acts the way they think they should, daily. If some act in self-serving ways, they do so because they think that’s the way they should act. It could well be that their self-serving behaviors are probably being reinforced – tolerated and even validated – by the leader, by the organization, etc.


If some team members act in cooperative, aligned ways, they do so because they think that’s the way they should act. Their “in service to the team” behaviors are likewise being reinforced by the leader daily.


The “AM” in TEAM means that individual team members must look at their own behaviors – their individual plans, decisions, and actions – as team members. They need to ask themselves, “How AM I behaving today – as an effective team member or an ineffective one?”


If individual team members answer this question honestly, they may discover:


  • “I AM protective. I don’t share information or my mistakes with team members.”
  • “I AM indirect. I don’t clarify exactly what I need from my teammates, so they frequently don’t give me what I need.”
  • “I AM clique-ish. I support my two friends on the team and withhold support from team members who aren’t my friends.”
  • “I AM critical. I frequently and loudly point out other team members’ mistakes and short-comings.”


An aligned individual team member, answering this question honestly, may discover:


  • “I AM supportive. I praise other’s efforts and accomplishments promptly.”
  • “I AM involved. I coordinate efforts with team members so we’re all in sync with our projects, deadlines, and customers.”
  • “I AM connected. I make it a point to learn about my colleagues outside interests – be it their kids, running, snowboarding, football, whatever – and engage with them about their interests regularly.”
  • “I AM kind. I smile when I see teammates. I say ‘Hello.’ I wish others well, regularly.”


This powerful question – “How AM I behaving as a team member today?” – can help individuals understand the degree of their cooperative interaction across their team. Once they understand how cooperative they are (or aren’t), they can shift their behaviors to be more aligned, more cooperative, more of service to their team.




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