I wanted to take some time out to speak about the best team I’ve worked with thus far in my career. We are continually shifting to a team based environment. With this change in organization so must we develop better ways to rate and reward teams for the accomplishments. Throughout his career, Deming alluded to the detrimental impact of direct competition with those we need to cooperate and Liz Ryan at BusinessWeek describes this force ranking of employees in todays workforce.

Ranking people is not like organizing screwdrivers in your toolbox by size. Andre might be a good worker, but teamed with Rajeev, he becomes a great one. The leadership talent that inspired you to put Tiffany, Gretchen, and Thuy together on the product-launch team has made all of them stronger contributors and brought great benefits to the company. What the heck could be the benefit of ignoring these interdependencies, and lining your team up in a zero-sum game of “Who’s Better Than Whom?”

The team (below) I worked with was only capable of meeting project objectives by maintaining a structure which assured mutual respect and understanding. This could not exist under a Best, Good, Average, Poor Likert rating that exists in many organizations.

(From Left to Right: Anthony Riley (me about 30 lbs ago), Gene Hodges, Dave Davis, Greg Carreon, and Tompie Hall)

In addition to project specific knowledge, individually our backgrounds included management consultants and school principal, a restaurant manager, IT manager and real estate. While this may seem like an unrelated series of skills, collectively we possessed the following traits and competencies developed from our various experiences.

  • Ability to work and communicate in multiple locations virtually
  • Respect
  • Ability to laugh at ourselves
  • Manage conflict
  • Distributed and shared knowledge

When you have several people all vying for the top spot, either trying to be number one in the department or fighting for the biggest bonus, teamwork eventually breaks down and people start hording information often to the detriment of the department and eventually the whole organization. Traits like those above disappear and the concept of the team becomes nothing more than lip service.

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