The I in Team


There’s no “I” in “Team”…or is there??

A Team in Challenge Time

Take another look at each member of this team. What is going between them?

Thinking about this question sheds light on the very essence of why one team works well together, whilst another one does not at all. There is not really such a difference between the two scenarios. Even if two teams share the same membership, goals, resources, and environment, one of them can flounder, making poor decisions and progress.
So where does the difference lay?

The difference lies in the “I” in a team. Or rather the difference lies with each individual and their relationship within the team.
Everyone asks themselves questions like;

Am I involved?
Am I heard?
Do I help?
Do I have a role or place?
Do I know what I am supposed to be doing?
Can I be myself and do I have space to be?
Am I accepted?

If you recall the last time you were part of a team, you might have asked some of these questions yourself. We all do. In other words, our relationship to those around us is very important to us, more important than we know. It must be clarified and understood before we can work well with our team-mates. Our failure to fix it is most often an issue causing high workplace-related stress.

The relationship between ‘I’ – as an individual – and ‘We’ – working in a team – moves through a number of important phases, from the birth of a team until that team becomes highly productive.

From “we”… to “I”… to “we” again

If you think about when you last became part of a new group, there were probably some thoughts and priorities foremost in your mind. Most people are a little nervous and unsettled: everything and everyone is new to them. Unfamiliar, uncertain. This produces a little anxiety and fear, most of which is kept hidden and overcome by being friendly.

Those friendly behaviours which we have learned and rely on to get us ahead in daily life, giving us a level of acceptance from others and the world around us. For some, it can be making jokes. For others, finding common likes and interests. For still others, it can be helping another. It’s our way of presenting an ‘I’ that demonstrates a desire to be included and integrated as quickly as possible. In other words, an ‘I’ that wants to be part of the ‘We’. Newly formed teams often show these ritual behaviours, using laughter as an important symbol for “we are together as one”.

After some time working together however, the joking around tends to run out of steam, and people start to acknowledge and account for some real differences that exist between them. We start judging others by their own decisions and actions. The ‘I’ develops a desire to express itself more and more in place of the ‘We’.



Now what I think and do is more important than before, because now I see and understand more about the team I am part of. I am more prepared to say what I feel and to establish my differences. My ideas and decisions have more importance and relevance, and at the same time I find other’s not so ready to consider and accept. This is a healthy and natural phase, and essential for the long-term strength of any team.



But if these reactions are not be managed carefully and properly, a team can find itself locked in an internal struggle that may eventually seriously disrupt its overall productivity. This is because the energy and focus of the team members gets side-lined by issues over the ‘I’ that are too tough to resolve. Members can opt to cease talking with each other, become less involved, and even recruit support from others to usurp power. Many teams do not survive this situation, and in many cases members quit and leave the team, losing valuable resources and knowledge.


Yet if this situation is managed well, ‘I’ finds its place within the ‘We’ of the team again. By allowing each individual a place, role and right within the structure of the team, so builds each person’s qualities as a key resource to the team.
‘I’ no longer has to stand for my individual-ness and difference because the others acknowledge me and recognise my contributions to achieving great team results.


‘I’ grows and embraces ‘We’, and as a result a team reaches new heights of productivity and performance. Just how a team manages this delicate transition between ‘I’ and ‘We’ is the basis for team-building programs. By creating a space of trust in which to become engaged, we gain a real chance to think about our actions and reactions as well those of our team-mates. We learn to accept differences and put in place new more constructive relationships.

Bushlab is dedicated to providing a unique and exciting space to boost your team to greater and more productive results.

Boosting People Naturally!