Putting the ‘I’ in Team

There’s no ‘I’ in team is a phrase I’ve hated for a long time. It’s ridiculous! Of course there are individuals in every team! And they don’t automatically shelve their aspirations and motivations just to serve the greater good. No, sir. We live in the real world. Our organizations and the people that work within them are part of a large dynamic, complex human system. Very complex. But that’s no reason to give up hope. In fact, appreciating the uniqueness of what each person brings to the table is the very secret to getting the highest level of performance. It’s also fundamental to avoiding getting surprised by unexpected behaviors.

Take this ‘world class’ rowing team, for example. I’m quite confident that synchronized rowing does not normally involve hitting other boats with your oars. Hmmmm…at least one person here is acting more like an individual than a team member.

2016-06-09 00_40_42-Sarasota Sculling - World Class Rowing @ Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park; visit

More on that later.

For those who attended my talk, here is a copy of the slides.

For now, I want to share the resources I’ve been using to get a fix on the role of the individual within successful teams.

Harvard Business Review

The Discpline of Teams. Katzenbach and Smith wrote this ‘addendum’ to their 1995 book, The Discpline of Teams. Great interview of fundamental concepts.

“Don’t Take It Personally” Is Terrible Work Advice. Fantastic article by Duncan Coombe explaining why dehumanizing work is a stupid idea.

How to Preempt Team Conflict. To understand individual motivations, we need to understand language and perception. This article provides great questions to get at those elements. By Ginka Toegel and Jean-Louis Barsoux.

When Was the Last Time You Asked, “Why Are We Doing It This Way?”. Hal Gregersen provides excellent examples of how leading companies infuse new ideas to keep thinking fresh.

Web Sources

Solomon Asch experiments on Conformity from the 1950s.

Origins of Credit Unions. Community and the strength of social bonds becomes collateral.


Why Teams Don’t Work. Robbins and Finley

Self-Directed Work Teams. Jack D. Orsburn, Lilnda Moran. Ed Musselwhite, John H. Zenger

Change-Friendly Leadership. Rodger Dean Duncan

The Happiness Advantage. Shawn Achor

Psychological Dimensions of Organizational Behavior. Staw

The Heart of Change. Kotter and Cohen

How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work. Ward and Robison. Check out their blog.

Model by Salveo Partners
Model by Salveo Partners




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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.

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