Same Team!

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“……And I scream at the top of my lungs.  What’s going on?” – 4 Non Blondes

What goes on regularly down in the business hood and out in the suburbs of life should make us all want to scream at the top of our lungs. If we’re paying attention to what’s going on around us and how people interact in the workplace, we’d scream “Same Team!” more often

Team Lessons

Derived from youth team sport coaching instructions that not enough people seem to have carried forward into their adult lives, “Same Team!” is something that coaches would say when two or more players wearing the same colored uniforms would fight each other for the ball. After all who didn’t want to make the catch, take the shot, or score the touchdown?  That’s where the glory was and still is.

The symbolism of the single ball should be metaphorically apparent as people in business regularly seem to fight their teammates for a greater slice of limited reward systems and top management recognition.  And some teammates will even tell you and others that this is what they’re doing and accordingly attempt to justify throwing a co-worker “under the bus”.  Others are more subtle, cunning, and even passive-aggressive, but they are equally as divisive and potentially even more destructive to the team. Of course, this is nothing new and goes back as far as the days of abacus-enabled bean counting.

Team Concept

Part of the issue lies with the concept of a team.  When we feel a part of a team, we commit to something bigger than any one individual. We practice good team behavior by deferring achievement of individual goals, considering alternative solutions, going the extra mile to assist and develop teammates, and ego-adapting to situational leadership needs.  We don’t try win every point, catch every nickel, or be the shining star at every meeting.  What motivates effective team behavior is clear communication, shared sense of mission, and getting the best overall results for the team.

Narcissists are the antitheses of teammates.  In fact, it can be said that they don’t join teams.  Their inability or unwillingness to commit to something bigger bolsters their own distorted sense of self. How can they be expected to be accountable to the team for good team behavior if they do not see themselves as part of any team?  It’s an easy out. As someone once actually said to me, “I don’t believe in teams. They don’t accomplish anything.”

Toward Team Understanding

In their own minds, these folks are bigger and/or more important than any team.  Team dynamics and the group process just slow them down. Ironically, narcissists frequently talk about “the team” but may more accurately be assessed to regard the team in utilitarian fashion. That is, the team and its membership are nothing more than a place to get what’s needed for their climb to the next summit.  In their own minds, they are rapid climbers getting their provisions at the base camp PX.  Many do get pretty far up the mountain.

Not everyone who fails to practice good team behavior is a narcissist.  Most defendants who land in team violation court can probably to some extent blame the system. Unlike the narcissistic offenders, these perps probably do not suffer from undiagnosed mental illness.   Their breaches are rational behavioral reactions to organizational ambiguity, conflicting objectives, and poorly designed incentive systems.   In reality, good team behavior requires understanding and adjustment to the fact that these factors may create situations that run counter to the best interests of the overall team. With poorly designed incentives, some conflicts along these lines may be irreconcilable.  However, good team behavior can still remain SOP if team members hold these values.

Team Perspective & Consequence

Having the opportunity to co-author several published articles with a retired Navy SEAL Captain Randy Albracht provides a useful perspective on teams.  In SEAL biz and with special operations, failing to practice good team behavior carries with it severe life and death consequences.  Look no further than the SEALs for what teamwork and commitment to one’s teammates is all about.   In Corporate America, the risks and rewards that most of us have with our teams are by comparison almost as little league as the orignal settings for the sage “Same Team!” coaching mantras. 

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Randy Albracht SEAL picture

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About Thomas W. Smith
Bizsinc - Bringing Business to Life

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