Are You a Team Player?

Published: March 1, 2010

Welcome back to the Team Clock Institute's monthly newsletter. Each month, Breakthrough Teams will invite readers to participate in an Ask/Apply/Act model: Ask: this month's team challenge Apply: example story Act: action steps for consideration

ASK : “Not everyone is a team player. What should a team do when a member is more focused on individual performance than the team’s goals?”

APPLY : In a previous management role, my compensation was influenced by the team’s collective performance. Consequently, individual members could achieve better results if they shared resources and opportunities. We were rewarded for giving business away to the teammate whose skill set gave the team the best opportunity to forge a partnership with the client. If everyone behaved unselfishly, our chances for maximum compensation were increased. Since everyone on the team had different strengths, we gained advantage by knowing each other well and deploying work accordingly. Most of the time, this model functioned as designed. Every once in a while, however, one of us would give in to our selfish motives and exercise a decision based on self-interest. Because it was outside of our consensus norms to behave this way, our own recognition that we had violated the team’s rules occurred faster than the barrage of corrective reminders from teammates could be delivered. In the end, we held ourselves and each other accountable.

ACT : Normalization sanctions both healthy and sick behaviors. Teams make active and passive choices to either confront or accept conduct that falls outside agreed upon expectations. Why would anyone choose to permit behavior that hurts a team? Sometimes the violator has enough influence that a confrontation is costly. Other times, the infringement is so small it’s just not worth the discomfort of accountability. So, the violation becomes passively allowed and the expectations are effectively adjusted to accept that new level. Whether by power-play or by passive acceptance, long-term integrity is sacrificed for short term comfort. Set the tone of your team with intention. Your rules of engagement only support you when they are engaged.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.