Life is a game we play everyday. Sometimes we are like gamers, playing alone, against ourself or against another individual. Most of the time we form into teams. Why do we form into teams? I suggest its because we intuitively know the best result is achieved when we bring together all the parts, those we bring ourselves to the game and those we know others will bring to the game. This suggests our first motivation in becoming a part of a team is that doing so meets our own needs first and foremost. In return we are prepared to give something that helps others meet their needs.
So, what is your game? What is it you bring to the team? Not every team needs the same people every time. The team, if it is to meet the needs of all its members needs people that bring the right things to that team. This suggests that even if you are a part of a team by default, because you are required to be there, your needs are unlikely to be met unless you are able to contribute something the team needs.
In a perfect world we would be able to select our own team members every time. There are some emerging workplace models based upon that premise. In the real world, however the composition of teams is compromised by members being obligated to being present. This suggests many teams will be unsuccessful in meeting all the needs of all the team members. In those circumstances a lot of the team energy is devoted to (a) meeting the needs of an external stakeholder, themselves not a member of the team, that is seeking a benefit completely unrelated to the desired team outcomes and, (b) resolving tensions between those bringing the right stuff and those bringing little or nothing.
How often have you started a team project with a discussion as to what each person brings to the team, and how their experience and knowledge may help the team achieve its goals? Likely never! I’ve never done it either. It might explain why it is a lot of team projects fail to achieve the desired outcomes. It might provide an insight into potential conflicts with teams. It might even highlight opportunities for buddying up those that bring little with those that bring a lot so that the collective wisdom is enhanced for the future.
Maybe next time you are asked to lead a team project the very first team conversation might go something like this . . .
We’re here to achieve XYZ please share with the team what you bring that may contribute to that outcome. If you are here by compulsion, or feel you bring nothing, don’t be embarrased, we’ve all been there. Let’s begin by exploring how we can achieve our goal while also meeting the needs of every single team member.
Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on that wall?