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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


Bob didn’t understand what had just happened. His supervisor had given him the feedback that his team was not performing up to expectations.

How could this be true? His team worked like a well oiled machine. All the members were long-timers. They knew their roles and played them well, and they were loyal beyond a shadow of a doubt. There was never any conflict within the team to speak of, and besides, everybody always laughed at his jokes. How on earth could anyone say that this was a sub par team?

One of the business aphorisms that I see posted regularly on client bulletin boards is: “There Is No ‘I’ in Team!” So what does this mean? For starters, a team can’t run an organization. That would result in massive conflict and bedlam as the team tried to achieve consensus on every single issue affecting the organization. There must be someone who is held accountable for making the final call on decisions.

So then is everyone in the organization always expected to subjugate any personal needs to the will of the person in charge of the team? Is everyone expected to become a paragon of loyalty and self sacrifice in order to please that person? “You have to use the restroom? Too bad; it’s not team restroom time—please return to your seat!”

Maybe you can tell already that I disagree with the “There Is No ‘I’ in Team” philosophy. As a practicing psychologist and rational human being, I could never in good conscience tell people that their personal happiness is unimportant. In fact, that misguided notion is in large part responsible for keeping all the clinicians in business.

All the research on the “groupthink” phenomenon bears out the dangers that accompany a lack of independent thinking or of challenging the status quo in a team or organization. Remember Jim Jones’ poison Kool Aid party? How about the Bay of Pigs fiasco? General George Patton summed it up nicely when he said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.”

The highly respected management guru Peter Drucker maintains that organizations have two main functions: marketing and innovation. It’s fairly easy to predict that there will be little innovation in a team or organization in which everyone is reluctant to give a unique personal opinion.

My perspective is that high performance teams are composed of assertive and

Independent thinking Innovators who understand that they can succeed bigger

through teamwork and synergy than through their personal efforts alone. As you

readily can see, these teams have a strong “I” component.

The members of these teams do not deny their personal needs, but rather they express them openly and appropriately. Then at times they choose to compromise on some of those needs in order to reap the larger rewards of being a member of a high performance team. This is a far cry from Bob’s team, which though efficient, had grown stagnant and complacent through an overemphasis on conformity and self sacrifice. How’s the “I” component in your team?


Technique #1: In building your team, select independent thinking innovators who

know the value of teamwork.

Technique #2: Help create a culture of innovation in your team by supporting a

healthy measure of constructive dissent.

Technique #3: When a team consensus is needed to get the best results, spend enough time communicating to work through conflicts and to build a true consensus decision that will be supported later by all team members.

Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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