There’s a myth that’s been circulating around for a long enough time that it has become a leadership cliché. That cliché is “there’s no ‘I’ in team”. We, at LIA, believe that if you’re really interested in building a great team that reaches for excellence and wants to sustain that excellence, then you better consider the reality that your team is completely comprised of “I’s” and each “I” brings their own set of needs, talents, ideas and prejudices. Great teams have learned to take the individual creativity and turn it into collective creativity so they can harness the magic of synergy. But it all starts with the individual. The “I”.
Maslow’s Theory says every human being has a hierarchy of needs that must be met before they can realize their full potential. We happen to agree with Maslow because of all the supporting research out there, our own experiences, and the feedback we receive from the participants in our classes and seminars. Maslow has five levels to his theory. The first and second level are pretty basic. They involve food, water, shelter, safety and security. Most companies fill these needs adequately enough.
The problems usually show themselves in the third level, which addresses belonging and love. We all have a need to feel like what we do is important, that we count, that our minds and ideas are valuable. Otherwise it’s just a job and we’re going to find the easiest way to get the most money doing the least amount of work and whoever is our boss is going to have to go way above and beyond to be able to motivate us.
We also need to feel that someone else cares about us or supports us, or maybe most importantly, feels our ideas and philosophies are valid and contribute. Remember, these are needs, not wants, and they have to be addressed and filled.
The last two levels are self esteem and self motivation. They have to do with being able to see the big picture and how you as an individual fit within that big picture, and you are challenged and pushed so you grow as an individual. Again, these are needs, and as a leader you are charged with paying attention to them and finding a way to paint that big picture, and allow and encourage that growth.
So, while we agree that great teams are ultimately collective in their goals, in the work ethic they develop and the synergy they generate, we also disagree that there is no I in those teams. The magic can only begin with the individual. True leaders understand that and work hard to assess the needs, talents, aspirations, and yes the weaknesses of each individual that they serve. It is only when that full picture is developed, that plans can be made for excellence, motivation can be applied, and the box can be created within which a team foundation can be laid.