How I Define a Team

Team is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot and sadly often means individuals assigned to work in close proximity. Since I specialize in building teams, I have a very different definition.

Teams are a collection of folks who have traded individuality for a shared, common purpose.

An Example, Please?

Alright, you might think that just putting people on a team that works on the same project or product accomplishes my definition, but let’s look a little closer.

Did they trade their individuality? No, they’ve allocated their energy, surely, but they’ve not made any choice to compromise for their fellow teammates for any common purpose.

Consider an actual team now, with a difficult decision to make. Instead of people digging in on their individual correctness or opinion, they navigate options and orient to their shared goal instead.

One person will censor their idea as they know it would hold the team back, and instead finds a way to move in the same direction.

Sounds Like Soft People Stuff

If we mean that building a team is about personal relationships, it absolutely is. If you mean that there is no room for that at work or that it isn’t worth it, you’d be completely wrong.

Think of a team as a sound wave. Now when a team is just a group of individuals, they each are producing their individual sound.

More than likely, some individuals are canceling each other out, some others are amplifying, and it is definitely not a good sound.

When there is an actual team, they work to amplify a singular sound—each adding to the common wave. The sound is precise and louder than any other group can produce because each can add to it.

In other words, a team is far more than the sum of its parts.

I’ve seen newly formed teams outperform other supposed teams in less than three months. I’ve seen similar results like this for years. The team that pulls in the same direction is stronger than the group of individuals pulling in the directions they see fit.

Why Are We Here?

Want to know if you have a team or not? Ask each person on the team discretely why the team is here and why they are on it. Ask this of everyone on the team.

How many answers you get is a good signal for how strong a team you have.