Do you really have a team?

Average reading time: 2 minutes 30 seconds

Do you really have a team?

There was a time in my career when once a month, I would reluctantly head off to a cramped and dimly lit meeting room for the regular team meeting.

On a good day, the meeting would be over and done with in 60 minutes. On a bad day it could drag on for approaching two hours, whilst feeling like four. I suspect you’ve been to meetings like this yourself.

It is probably too strong for me to say I hated those meetings. It’s just that, other than ten minutes or so, the discussions just weren’t relevant to me and what I was trying to deliver for the business.

The same would have been true for my six colleagues who were enduring that meeting whilst sitting all cramped-up around the table in that stuffy, inadequately sized meeting room.

My frustration and reluctance to attend the meeting wasn’t about the people though. My colleagues in the room were all great people who were brilliant at their jobs. And my boss who led the meeting was a really great guy too.

But every time I walked into that meeting I was hit by a sense of anxiety and frustration.

There were so many things I needed to be doing. So many projects to move along. So many more valuable conversations I could have been having with my team.

And yet, there I was in that meeting room once again, listening to updates from team members about projects that had absolutely nothing to do with me.

It wasn’t until many years later that I finally understood the source of my frustration.

What I realised was that the people in my room weren’t my team mates, because we weren’t a team. We were simply colleagues.

The only real things we had in common from a work perspective were that we worked in the same department, of the same business and had the same boss. That was it.

You could possibly have described us as a work-group, but I don’t think even that is true. We were simply a group of people with the same line-manager. And whilst that line manager was a great guy, his mistake was trying to create a team when we absolutely were not a team. In doing so, what he actually created was anxiety, frustration and a small degree of resentment.

What I have come to realise is that having a number of people ‘reporting into us’ and leading a team are not the same thing. In fact, they can be very different things. If we are responsible for other people and the work that they deliver, it may be the case that;

  • We are leading a genuine team.
  • We are leading a work-group.
  • Or, we may simply be managing a group of people, all doing very distinct roles with no over-lap or inter-dependence.

So, my challenge to you this week is to pause for thought. Before setting off with the very noble and well-intentioned plan to build a truly amazing team, stop and consider if you actually have a team at all.

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