I + I = < 2

Posted on June 21, 2011


See that title and think I made a typo?  Mixed up by 1’s and my I’s?

No typo … just Tori’s revised version of the classic ‘the whole is great than the sum of the parts’ formula.

How many times, in work or in play have you heard the words ‘There is no I in Team’? I imagine more times than you care to remember.  I know I have … and in all bar a few cases, I completely disagree.

I think there is most definitely an I in team and that I stands for Individual.

Teams are made up of individuals who try to work together in a way that produces more than they could produce working separately. It’s a classic case of 1+1 being greater than 2.

But each individual brings their own talents, goals, expectations, habits and many other characteristics to the team. They don’t suddenly become ‘we.’

I think that an individual shouldn’t ever have to give themselves up to work effectively on a team … rather, effective teamwork is a balancing act between independence and interdependence, between the individual and the group.

Each individual has core psychological needs, values, and talents that are essential to their wellbeing and high performance. Everyone is unique, yet at the same time has many things in common with others.

The I is at the core of a team and influences the team. The unwritten operating guidelines that develop in the team are heavily influenced by the personalities of the team members. When the majority of the team share some characteristics, the team can fall into groupthink and not be as resourceful and adaptable as it needs to be. If an individual’s core needs are not met that team member won’t contribute to the synergy that can be achieved with teams. Individual differences contribute to increased synergy but they can also lead to disruptive conflict.

Being in a team environment also enables the individual to really pinpoint their own skills, their strengths and weaknesses, how they react to conflict or indifference.  And these perceptions can be carried over into every area of our lives.

I’ve just finished reading a book called Running Hot by Lisa Tamati.  At one point, she likens running to the perfect illustration of this in action. She says whilst long distance ultra running is a very individual sport, there also operates a great deal of teamwork.  Individual runners, when running strong, give huge support to fellow competitors during low points.  And when the tables are turned, the same support reverses direction. And together, these individual competitors have a greater chance of crossing that finishing line; the individuals use their own strengths as individuals to operate as a team. 

My case in point.  Know your strengths, apply your personality and be the best ‘I’ you can be.

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