How well do you know the “I”s in your team?

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Throughout my many years working in the Corporate world, the message bandied around was frequently “there’s no I in team.”

Thankfully, that’s not a message I’ve ever really bought into, as I actually believe that everyone has the right to be an “I” – to be an individual, with a unique combination of  skills, talents, attributes, needs, desires and aspirations.

I also believe that acknowledging and embracing the unique qualities each individual brings to the mix gives us the best chance of creating a powerful team, rather than just a simple group of people who may, or may not be on the same page as one another.

Encourage the Heart

In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner acknowledge the fact that, “to keep hope and determination alive, leaders (must) recognize the contributions that individuals make.”

Individuals are the heart and soul of any effective, cohesive team – recognising the contributions of individuals goes a long way towards ensuring that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll be aware that my own team has undergone a lot of changes recently; losing Zahra, our special mare; relocating from Yorkshire, to Lincolnshire; introducing Philly, our new mare, to the herd.

Each of these events has created significant shifts in the dynamics of my team, because each has been impacted by those changes at a very individual level, myself included.

This has been a really important time for the team, as it has created opportunities for different members of the herd to test out their role and position in the “hierarchy.”

For Cloud, it has meant taking on more responsibility for the safety of the group whereas, for Billy, it has lead to him relinquishing some of his hold and recognising that he doesn’t need to compete with the younger members of the herd.  Billy is certainly a more relaxed chap, as a result.

Cloud seems to have made it his mission to induct Philly into her new team, but is being more enthusiastic in the role than she would like.  He is unwittingly giving a wonderful demonstration of the importance of showing a new team member the ropes, but then stepping back and letting them find their feet.  Fortunately, Philly isn’t shy about letting the cheeky upstart know that she can fight her own corner. 

After all, we generally bring our new team members onboard because they have skills and attributes that we value, so why try to push them into a mold that prevents them from shining?

Get to know your “I”s

So, what do you do to get to know the “I”s in your team?  How do you fully explore the skills and attributes your team members bring to the mix, rather than just pigeon-holing them into the role they have been brought in to fulfil?

Over the years, I have worked with and lead many teams and, in my experience, one of the most valuable investments is in making the time to get to know the “I”s behind the roles.

This might be 5 minutes, 1:1 at the coffee machine; a weekly team hour, where wellbeing is the topic of conversation, rather than work; or, a more formal team development programme, which our 4-legged team would be more than happy to facilitate for you.

For me and my equine team, it’s taking the time to be with them; to observe their relationships; to remind them that I’m part of their herd/team when I’m with them and, particularly in Cloud’s case, to demonstrate that I am a competent, authentic leader that the herd can count on.

Whatever works for you, remember, your team is only as strong as the “I”s that it is made of.

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