Consider these two statements.
- We are a team, but you know what they say about team; there’s no I in team!
- If we are a team, and Sam Slacker is not doing his job, why do I have to do my job?
What do they have in common? Statement one partially created statement two in the workplace. From time to time business grabs hold of an idea they believe has great value and only later discovers that the idea was flawed and created things never intended. “We are a team” did that.
Unintended effect: Use the word we in place of I and you.
Revision: Use the words I, you and we appropriately to reinforce team and personal responsibility—i.e., “We are a team. I am here to help you. What are you going to do to assist your teammates and perform up to your potential?”
Unintended effect: It’s not necessary to look at your performance separate from the performance of your teammates.
Revision: While it’s productive to compare the performance of teammates, expect employees to measure themselves against their potential – separate from others’ performance.
Unintended effect: It’s OK to stop short of doing your best if less than your best positions you as the highest performer on the team.
Revision: Doing less than your best is never – and has never been – acceptable. Expect excellence in the workplace from everyone.
Communicate to the team your expectation that they get up in the morning, look at themselves in the mirror and say, “I will compete with myself to be the very best person I can be in the workplace today. I won’t even think about commenting on another person’s performance or comparing myself to them until I know I’m giving my best. My best is defined as both my personal best and my team best.”
Unintended effect: Competition among teammates is discouraged.
Revision: Encourage competition among employees, as the world of sports does. They understand that Competition and Teamwork are Compatible and that when teammates compete, all grow and improve. Encourage your people to:
- first compete with themselves to be their best,
- compete with teammates to make each other better, and
- cooperate with each other to raise overall team performance.
The manager’s job is to communicate when it’s time for them to compete with themselves and others, and when it’s time to put their competitive selves aside and bring forth their cooperative selves. Manage this well and watch the performance of each individual and the team improve!
You see, I subscribe to the Michael Jordan School of Teamwork. Michael, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, after hearing “We are a team, but you know what they say about team; there’s no I in team” responded, “There is no “i” in team but there is in win.”
Competition and Teamwork ARE Compatible. First believe it is possible, then create it.