How to be a great ‘I’ in a high performing team – 8 key ingredients

High Performance Team Principles
High Performance Team Principles
Reading time: 6 minutes

You’ve probably familiar with the cliché “There is no ‘I’ in team”. Clearly that’s rubbish.

In all probability you’re in a team. You are an ‘I’. A singular. A person in your own right. With your own life, drives and personality.

A team is a place where there are lots of I’s. Lots of individuals, working together, trying to achieve their personal goals and contribute in the best way they can to collective success.

Here are 8 interrelated ingredients in the recipe for being a brilliant ‘I’ in a high performing team…

1. Team comes first

The team you’re a part of and the organisation you work in are the context for your personal performance. The team’s goals are the context for your personal goals. The organisation’s purpose and goals are an important part of your playing field. Part of performing at your best is to adapt yourself to this context – to choose to engage fully with the purpose and goals of the team and organisation you’re a part of.

Are you choosing to engage?

2. Recognise the (not so) “small” stuff

Every team member plays a part in the performance of the team. Some people do the highly visible, obvious stuff and can often take the plaudits. In great teams we see enormous generosity of spirit. There are often lots of people looking to give credit to others when things are going well. When successes happen, there are often plenty of people doing the little things that make a big difference. Without them, winning wouldn’t happen. Making sure people get recognition for the (not so) little things they do helps make it a great team. Everyone needs to feel valued for the value they bring.

How well do you recognise the value of each person in the team?

3. Know what you bring

Speaking of value – to be a great member you need to know the strengths, competencies and personal qualities you bring to it. In order to gain most value from them, you need to, well, value them! Having these attributes and not valuing them in yourself will make it a whole lot trickier for other people to find out about them and for you to make your best contribution to the team.

How well do you know and value your strengths?

4. Make the most of strengths

Once you know and value the things you bring, you can get to work on making the most of them. Also, in order to be the best “I” you can be in the team, you need to know and recognise what strengths other people bring, so you can make the most of those too.

How well do you know and make the most of the strengths of other people on your team?

5. Control your ego

In great teams everyone leads from their place on the team. That can cause conflict if you’re all fighting for space or recognition. To prevent this, each I in the team will need to manage their ego. Don’t make your own wants and needs more important than anyone else’s. Your wants and needs matter AND so do those of the other people on the team. Be humble and willing to admit when you’ve messed up. Be able to step back and try something the way other people on your team want to do it. Maybe it’s a better way or maybe it’s the right thing to do for team connectedness.

How well do you manage your ego?

6. Work with a sense of purpose

You will do your best work and your teammates will increasingly want to work with you, if everything you do has a strong sense of purpose and meaning. Why does what you’re doing matter? Why does the project or task you’re working on make a difference? Taking 2 minutes to establish clear purpose is time well spent. Communicating that is important.

How well are you establishing and communicating purpose?

7. Give people space

If we feel crowded, harassed or micromanaged, we might get the work done, but we often do it with a simmering sense of resentment. Motivation levels can erode and, even worse, we can start to avoid people who seem to want to control us. So, be aware that other people are already and always in the middle of something, show them respect and give them space to do the things they need to do.

How can you give the other people you work with the right amount of space?

8. Be a trusted source of the truth

There’s someone I work with who I trust enormously. I don’t always like what he has to say or agree with him. But I trust him to tell the truth. If he thinks I’ve done a poor job, he’ll tell me (and he’ll check that I’m okay). If he thinks I’ve done a great job, he’ll tell me. If he sees something I could do better, he tells me. He simply tells me the truth as he sees it. It’s great working with him (but often not easy!). I never have to second-guess, read between the lines or deal with any unhelpful political nonsense. I can see that everything he does is in the best interests of the team and the business. This makes our working relationship simple, clean and efficient. His feedback is massively valuable. He’s a great I in my team and he helps me be the best I can be. A great example.

Are you being a trusted source of the truth in your team?

Yes, you work with other people and if you’re going to be a great team member, you need to think about them and how to adapt yourself to the right extent to get the best from them. At the same time, if you’re not able to get the best from yourself, then you’re not likely to find out how you can make your own personal best contribution.

They key is to find the AND. You AND others, all doing your best work. And even enjoying it!

For more on how to be a great member of a team, try this tool

Being the strong link in the chain

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