There is No “I” in Team but There is in “Win”

By Edwin C. Ebreo

“There is no I in Team” Michael Jordan was reminded by Chicago Bulls assistant coach Tex Winters after Jordan scored  a straight 20 points. Jordan returned Winter’s comment with “There’s ‘I’ in ‘win.’” Some might find Jordan’s quip as a bit of an arrogance but you know what I think? I think he is right. If you want to have a winning team, you have to mind the “I’s” within the team.

I speak from experience when I say that rallying your team to act with unity and work together towards a common goal  is not enough. If you want a winning team, you need to make sure that each one of them is responsible and committed to contributing to the team and are accountable for their performance and behavior. What I mean by that is as a leader you see the individuals doing their utmost best and readily take accountability for their misses. They don’t go around blaming everyone but themselves when things go wrong. I think that being committed and accountable are words that describe individuals in the team and not the team itself.  It is also something that individuals declare and prove to themselves. No amount of  good teamwork can be achieved if you don’t have individuals who are responsible, committed and accountable in your team.

What to do? There is no “I” in Team but there are two in “Winning.” Let me wear that leader’s hat now and see how this idea applies. The first “I,” I reserve to myself as a leader. If I want to have a winning team, I should be able to demonstrate responsibility, commitment and accountability myself. This means charting the course, demonstrating the right behaviors, enabling my team, looking for opportunities to change and improve and lastly, encourage my team to succeed.

The other “I,” I will focus at the individual members of my team. I’d like to go back to what I just said. By enabling my team, I mean building it, choosing the right people to come in, making sure that they are made of the right stuff and they are positioned where they can best contribute. Now herein lies the problem. No tool has been proven to be fool-proof in choosing the right team members. Sometimes, you have to make the painful decision of letting people go just because they can’t be successful in your team and your team can’t likewise succeed with them in it. I’ve seen this happen. One person pulled out of the team, the team shines like it never did before. Taking on this difficult task requires a leader who is accountable to the team to take the necessary action to remove barriers to effectiveness. Wait, this post is not about firing people, at least not just about it. It’s about having individuals in your team who are there because they want to be there and not because they are out of choices or because they can’t find a better paying job… yet. As leaders we need to make sure that we have people who are in it to win it.

To be able to harness the ‘I’s of a winning team, leaders need to spend a fair amount of time evaluating their own leadership effectiveness and sharpen their skills, then they should spend an even more amount of time knowing the individuals in the team, communicating with them and helping them succeed by seeing to it that they are responsible, committed and accountable.

Hey, who said winning is easy?

Related course: Team Leadership Workshop


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