Michael Jordan made this famous with his retort to Phil Jackson when Phil came on as the Bulls head coach and said “There is no ‘I’ in Team. I heard this again a few weeks ago, as a joke mostly, not as an insightful quip. But it’s been rattling around my head since.
Team work has its time and place. Creativity in all of its forms can be pushed and expanded with a team approach. I personally can work through complex problems much more quickly when I have the right team around me. When pitching a new client, determining strategy within a project or even vetting a new hire I thrive on having people around me. It helps me validate, see another angle; or perhaps just not look crazy talking to myself. Regardless, teams are good, in the right moment, in the right doses.
I suspect even if I receive no comments on this post, I may offend all of three of my avid readers. Agencies and clients alike have the opportunity to take some focus off of team and put it on the individual. What Jordan was saying in his retort to Jackson was that he had the wantonness to be as accountable as an individual as Jackson was willing to put on the team as a whole.
The moments I walk out of the office feeling accomplished with the days work I can look back and see I spent solid blocks of time working as an individual. I may have executed against a team idea, but I was able to work on my own. I get to work before just about everyone else in my office, so I am assured time to myself to be productive. It’s important to my sense of worth and contribution.
I also have to say that I like being responsible for things on my own. And I also like being part of a successful team. I like giving credit to my peers and colleagues. I like seeing them be successful. But I see at times that teams can diminish the sense of accountability and ownership. Part of this can be attributed to the team models that run in organizations. I watch as teams within client or partner organizations balloon out of control. When teams are not small and focused the phrase ‘there is no I in team’ is all too true; human nature kicks in and presumes everyone else on the team will get the work done. The problem is that there can also be a lack of accountability or growth.
Teams work of course, but so does being an individual. That should never be forgotten and in fact supplemented with the idea that your team is relying YOU for YOUR work, YOUR thought and YOUR movement.