Business Eye: Taking one for the team is a tall order

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt
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Recently three very different teams have each been causing me angst and taken me to the font of the often quoted adage, “there’s no ‘I’ in team.

The need to pull together in any competitive environment is of course a no-brainer.

As Babe Ruth said “You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

It is individual commitment to a group effort, to something bigger than yourself or that which you control that makes a company, a place, or a civilisation work.

Anyone who pursues a win/lose approach to relationships in business or in life, loses out in the end.

The truth is that when you run in a try or score a century, you don’t do it for yourself, you do it for the team.

The name on the front of the shirt is more important than the one on the back.

By the same token, to varying extents each of us at different moments chooses to look after number one.

It’s not realistic to bank on a Utopian ideal that every team member will always subjugate their immediate perceived self-interest for the good of the shared mission.

So how to handle a team member who wants to stay on your team but also to pick and choose when they play for you or the opposition?

It’s not something I’ve come across before, and to be honest I’m really struggling to handle it well in each case.

Saying nothing is not sustainable because if one player can do as they wish it eats away at the commitment and trust of the rest of the team.

As a leader you have to raise the subject. The problem is that in doing so you are seen as taking an aggressive stance because it is 
you who is upsetting the status quo.

I’m learning fast that you have to work overtime and really hard to avoid being read as threatening, as this really doesn’t help.

It simply causes others to dig in their heels rather than thoughtfully weigh up in the balance what you are trying to say.

I keep getting this wrong; not intentionally, but wrong nonetheless.

All you can do in all humility in the end is to lay out the facts and a clear deadline and stay patient to allow enough time for people to make up their own minds, hopefully to stick with your team as a newly energised full team member, but not always.