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There Absolutely, Positively Is an “I” In “TEAM”

Here’s an expression you hear all the time: “There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM'”

I hate that saying.  It’s totally misleading and it can lead to bad teams.

Usually when someone uses that expression, they are trying to say that to someone who they think is being selfish.  I certainly agree that selfish people are poor team members.  Great team members will help each other in a flash and share a vision for the practice as a whole.  No argument there.

But my problem with “There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM'” is that it fails to address your team as individuals.  If you’re going to lead your team to success, you’ll have to recognize and meet the personal needs of each team member.  Only then can you expect the individual to continually contribute to the bigger picture.

Let’s say you have a terrific dental assistant named Mary.  Mary is a very hard worker, she’s always on time, and patients love her gentle disposition.  Mary is the perfect assistant.

Mary is also a great “team player.”  She’ll help out at the front desk in a jam and set up the hygienist’s room if she has nothing else to do.  Seriously, she’s perfect.

But unless you meet her individual needs, Mary won’t be on your team forever.

Goodbye, Mary. We'll miss you.

What are the needs that your team members have?  You’ll know if you spend enough time with them.  I wrote a post about how to know if you should leave your associate position. The chart of needs is virtually the same for you as is is for your team:

Chart of Needs

Money: You’ve got to give pay raises and bonuses to a team member if you expect to retain them, plain and simple.

Office: A positive working environment, minimal stress and drama, with occasional updates to decor.

Growth: Challenge your staff to take on new responsibilities so they don’t get bored!

If you can meet all three basic needs, you’ll probably keep your favorite team members around forever.  But it will take effort on your part to periodically break your team down into individuals and think about meeting their needs.

If a team member is starting to consistently under-preform, think about why.  Perhaps they are losing their spark for their work because they’re not having a particular need met.

So there is an “I” in “TEAM.”  It’s a subtle change of phrase but it is important to frame your thinking that way.  I lead a team full of “I’s.”

Here’s my final poof that an “I” actually does exist in the word “TEAM”

I told you so.


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