We Need a New Definition for TEAM

All of us have the poster definitions of TEAM etched into our minds. These range from “Together Everybody Achieves More” to “There is no I in TEAM”. These definitions have arguably run their course and we find ourselves needing a new definition for TEAM. Why?

The word TEAM is many times used loosely, and in the worst case, in a patronizing fashion. Have you ever been part of a group where the members are just on the verge of being civil to each other and the only reason they hold back their vitriolic comments is so they can get out of the meeting? I have. Yet, the Project Manager insists on using the word “team” when communicating with the group. Everyone knows this is not a team, and using that term in this environment is met with a collective eye-roll.

So, what does it take to make a team? Time. Events have to occur with a group of people where they know they can count on each other. This may be a short or long period of time, but calling a group of people a team just because they are in the same room together or working on the same project doesn’t cut it anymore.

It takes TIME to:

  • Understand and Accept Strengths and Weaknesses: Not everyone excels at everything, and that’s OK. It takes time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each other. It takes time to accept the fact that someone may not be as good at something as you are, or, they may even be better than you. These dynamics need to occur across the group to allow everyone to settle into their strengths.
  • Complement Strengths and Weaknesses: Once strengths and weaknesses have been identified, it takes time to determine whose strengths will balance out others weaknesses.
  • Instill Confidence: Working on a project team is about execution and getting things done. It takes time to build up the confidence that when someone says they will take care of something, you know it is as good as done.

Putting the above characteristics together is the beginning of a new definition for TEAM: A group of people who understands each other’s strengths and weaknesses, fills in the gaps for each other, and has implicit trust in one another’s ability to get their job done.

Granted, there is a shift toward pulling total strangers together to work on short-term, virtual projects where team members may never see each other face-to-face. I think the above definition can be achieved; it just needs to happen quickly.

So, what is your definition of a team? Do you think the term is abused/misused at times? What are some things you have done to expedite the team-building process when you have new people and limited amounts of time?

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