What is a team?

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A gathering, a group, a team, a family and a duo all have one commonality; people.   People bring several components of themselves to each of these archetypes.  It is important to understand 3 basic components of people:

The first component is history.  No two individuals have experienced life exactly the same way, even though there can be similar threads within their history.  Individuals may have had parents that disciplined them in the same way, they may have played the same sport or had similar interests.  Their experiences are massively unique and to assume otherwise is not wise.  That history is brought to each of these organized types and informs the individuals behavior.  That behavior is oftentimes completely irrational.

A second component is a set of values.  Values help us answer the question “What gets you up in the morning?”  Values could range from family, to tradition, to achievement and aesthetics.  Values are instilled through our history. I had a teacher that was highly influential on my life taught me the importance of achievement. A parent certainly instills values into children.

A third component individuals bring to these various organized functions is their strengths.  Your strengths are deployed uniquely because your history and your values are in fact yours.  You may be an exceptional financial analyst.  How you deploy this strength is about your style.

How do these three components impact our organizing of people?  As it pertains to the leader, you must be mindful of what each individual brings to the table.  I will focus on the team archetype above and provide three insights on your role as team leader:

1. Insight #1:  If you were promoted to team leader expect to be sabotaged.  I do not say this to be negative.   It is likely that one person on your team wanted your job and could have some bitterness.  You know who that person is, it might be a good idea to help him/her see their integral part in leading your team to results.

A client of mine was promoted ahead of his peer group and faced imminent sabotage.  Luckily, he was smart and found ways to head that off at the pass and leveraged that person as an integral part of the team.  Sabotage is often unseen to the leader or stated without words.

2. Insight #2: You are no longer measured solely by your technical ability.  Yes, that technical ability got you to this point. Yes it is important and should not be left behind, but now it is about leading the team toward results, retaining the talent on the team and seeing the team engage heavily.  You will be tempted to go back to that technical work because that feels safer and easier.  Move toward your team and help them win because they all bring strengths to the table.

3. Insight #3: The history of each person should be revealed over time and at relevant increments.   I have seen team leaders go too fast here in uncovering the person’s history.  Some leaders do not bother to go here at all.  Your intent is to know the person and what he/she brings with them.  Much of that history informs their current behavior.  Your meeting agenda should not just be data driven and not just people development.  A good mixture of both.  Many leaders and managers just go to task and stay with data because it is certain.

Three of my favorite quotes on team leadership:

1.  “The well run group is not a battlefield of egos.” – Lao Tzu

2. “United we stand, divided we fall.” – Aesop

3. “The team is not about you, it is about us.” – Unknown

Each of these components are true of any grouping of people.  We all bring our history, values and strengths to the table. We may deploy them at various times and in various venues.  The team leader must be aware of all three components as they work toward exceptional results.