How to become spiderman

Summary: With great power comes great responsibility. A ‘step-by-step’ guide to become spiderman (superpowers included).

There’s no I in a team. I sat in the room listening to the trainer bullet one trite phrase after another about teamwork. The bullets came in slow motion. I don’t enjoy trainings! The trainer sensed my disinterest and asked me if I had a problem. “Yeah, there’s no I in a team. – that’s my problem!. You gotta problem with that, man!??” (Actually, I just said no)

We have romanticized the idea of teamwork in our workplace. We have been told things like there’s no I in a team, substitute I with we, take collective responsibility. This has helped a lot of us hide behind the veil called “we”. I screwed up on something at work and no one said you screwed up Srinath. Instead, this is what I was told:  we missed it. How cute. Why don’t you just point that index finger of yours straight at me and say – Srinath you screwed up! You would never do that. You are a team player and some 5 fingered genius once told you when you point your finger, three fingers point toward you. So, you soften the blow with the ‘we’. Now, I don’t feel terrible. I also don’t feel responsible.The only responsibility I have now is to cover for your screw up. Teamwork! So, we will continue screwing up, as a team and take collective responsibility.

Collective responsibility is like distributing 3 slices of rotten apple among 7 people,equally. A simpler solution is to ask the one person who let the apple rot not to let it happen again. Imagine Uncle Ben telling Peter Parker, “with great power comes great collective responsibility.” Peter might have decided to become an IT pro and not spiderman.

As much as working as a team helps an organization, not taking responsibility leads to teams falling apart. Why is responsibility so hard for us? Because being told you are responsible has a semblance of blame. How can I be responsible when I ran it by you. You overlooked my mistake too. So now, everyone who overlooked my mistake is a part of the team that screwed up. So, others get caught inside the circle that I drew just because they did not notice I had drawn a square instead (terrible analogy, but gets interesting). There will be more squares instead of circles and the team will be responsible. Here’s the counter side: what happens to the guy who draws the perfect circle? Well, everyone in the team thinks that it’s a circle too and now the team has done a great job. The greatest advantage this team has is that they all play as a team. You know what the greatest disadvantage is? they all play as a team!

There are NO individuals in a team! A guy who drew the perfect circle needs to be told he did a great job rather than great job team. Who is team? And more importantly, the guy who drew the square instead needs to be told he screwed up. Like bragging, it’s no blame if it is true. Teams fall apart because the great guy becomes frustrated because everyone calls him team and the abysmal guy is ecstatic because they call him team too.

There’s no I in a team. There’s I in win, no I in lose. There’s I in spiderman. See, it’s not too hard to come up with observations like that. Every organization wants a great team. And here’s what’s in a great team – Individuals! Individuals who not only work together, but also help one another. Individuals who don’t hide under the we, but Individuals who own up, Individuals who recognize and not photobomb recognitions. More importantly a great team is made up of individuals who hold each other responsible. Here’s something you should know- there’s three I’s in individual.

Written on May 5,2016.

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