That’s my new line, and I start every team building class with it.

People come to a team building class thinking that somehow we will talk about different things from what they learned in their last leadership development class.  But it’s really all the same stuff.  An effective team member needs to develop self-awareness, understand the stages of team development and the roles people play, know how to align everyone on mission, vision and values, be able to leverage the strengths of the team and manage around the weaknesses, and know how to communicate effectively and manage conflict.  All the same skills a leader needs to develop, albeit perhaps not at the same level.

Sometimes in a team building class (which I distinguish here from a team building session–in a class, you have individuals who are not part of the same team, and who expect to learn team building skills as opposed to actually engaging in team building activities with their teammates) people ask me whether we will be focusing on how to be an effective team leader or how to be an effective teammate.  I ask them, what’s the difference?  If every teammate had the same skills that the team leader had, presto, you would have a high performing self directed team.

And does it matter that your team doesn’t meet the strict definition of a team?  So they’re not truly task interdependent; does that mean they don’t need to align around mission, vision and values, or that they can skip the work to develop their collaboration and conflict resolution approaches?  Of course not.

So it’s all the same stuff that everyone in the workplace needs to learn, in the end.  Sometimes I think we make too many distinctions, distinctions that are not ultimately useful to us.

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