What Good is a Team?
Written by an ex-self proclaimed genius
2015 - I woke up at 11:00am, washed my face, and went to get my late breakfast. On my way, I was thinking about the game that I had played until dawn, what movie I would watch later, etc. Not one thought about work, nor about money. And as one of the smartest students in my college, lectures didn’t take much space in my head either. Only thoughts about games, and my private life. What a good day!
Today - I woke up at 07:30am as a co-founder of a small startup company. I took a sip of water, didn’t even wash my face, and went to take my wife to work. On my way, I was thinking about how to grow my business, how to minimize the loss, how to solve my teammates' problems, how to satisfy the customer, etc. And another etc. and another etc... Oh my... What a good day too!
Well, things have changed... A lot. And I can’t say that I don’t miss the old days when I wasn’t thinking about anything. I miss living as an irresponsible adult without commitment or thought about money. But now, living as a married person with a team to work with, I can’t say that I’m unhappy. I live and work happily with my team.
What makes a team
Years ago, someone asked me,
“Sam, what kind of job do you want in the future?”
“Anything is fine I guess.”
Me who didn’t know why I chose an IT major during college, couldn’t really answer those job related questions. But if someone asked me “who do you want to work with?”, I confidently knew the answer. I even thought about it a lot. For me, ‘who’ was far more important than ‘what’.
So, what makes a team? Obviously, the answer is the people inside the team. But is it that simple? If you gather some people to do something, are they a team? If you see a pack of wolves hunting, are they considered to be a team too? The answer is, yes they are! A team is a group of individuals working together to achieve the same goal. But the next question is what we are going through, “Are they a good team?”
Once in my school, I was in a team where I was the only reliable person there, the others were only parasites. One just sat there doing nothing, one played with his phone all the time, one kept talking to others and laughed all the time. The worst part is, we all need the same thing, the grades. They would do anything for the grades (except doing their very job, of course). A group of individuals with the same goal. Yes it was a team, but a really bad team. Your team at least needs to have great communication, a leader, and diversity, besides the same goal.
The most important thing in a team. Simple, but doesn’t mean it’s easy. Two grand rules to be applied. First, each individual must be open minded and are open for inputs, even if the inputs are harsh. Second, everyone must give a contribution to the team by giving everyone inputs, whether the giver or receiver likes it or not.
I know sometimes giving inputs would result in arguments and disputes, even a turnover from friend to enemy. I too had countless of them, but I think it’s a sacrifice you have to make to improve your team, yourself, and your teammates. If you or someone in your team doesn’t follow these rules, they have two options: make some effort and change to the better, or leave the team. Seriously, inputs are very very important for the team, and everyone must follow these rules.
There is a saying,
“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”
Such a creative quote that implies the leader is even more important than the team. Even what he is afraid of is reflected on the leader, as the face of the team, not the team itself. But jokes around, if a sheep could lead those lions, what sorcery does this sheep have!? Those lions must have seen some marvel level things from this sheep so they chose him as their leader!
Without a doubt, a leader is a necessary component in a team. The leader, as the most respected and trusted person in a team, plays the role of a glue to stick everyone together and leads them to the goal, and they trust him that he will be able to do it.
Most importantly, the leader is someone who takes responsibility. This is the biggest burden of a leader. If the team doesn’t perform well, everyone outside the team would blame the leader. If the team makes a false or silly decision, everyone would blame the leader without knowing the real problem. Unfair? Yes, but it’s normal and it’s how society works, they always blame the leader. Therefore, the leader should be the final decision holder regarding big matters, and should lead and make sure their team performs well in every aspect.
In the business world, I have several cases when the leader is chosen unwillingly (just because no one is willing to), or worse, through a coin flip. Trust me, a leader is not only a title. A leader decides so much about your team. If you choose a weak leader, the strong member would leave and join the stronger team. Resulting in a weak team. If you choose an evil leader, the angel member would leave. Resulting in an evil team. You don’t put your team’s fate on a coin flip, do you?
Lionel Messi, arguably the most talented player ever lived on this planet. His rival of course, is Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Of course both are the best in the world. But can eleven Messis or Ronaldo’s clones match a standard football team? I doubt it, I really doubt it. Even there is a possibility that I could be a better goalkeeper than them!
Just as Messi or Ronaldo who can’t be a goalkeeper, every person can’t be everything. Well, we can but we shouldn't. Since everyone is different (has their own skills, experience, talent, personality, culture, etc), everyone should master something and has their own role based on those differences. Just like football, diversity is needed in a team so that all of the required skills or jobs are covered by somebody in the team. A good team is a team that can recognize each member’s strengths, and give that member the most suitable task. The right man in the right place can ultimately boost the performance of the team.
A football team consisting of a lot of Messi might be worse than standard football team
Why Did I Choose to be in a Team?
Now back to myself, why did I choose to be in a team? Let’s start with a 10 years ago story. When I was in school, I was an arrogant brat who thought that I was the smartest person on earth. As I grew older, I realized that I was just a tiny dot in God’s huge painting. But even before I realized that, I knew I needed a team. Not because I wasn’t independent or not confident enough in my skills. But I thought that there were things you couldn’t get if you were alone. Here it is, two main things why I chose a team.
Being in a Team is Fun
Fun is one of the main components. Besides working together, I play a lot too with my team. We even have a scheduled playtime together. I think it’s very important to have some fun together as it strengthens our bond, and I feel that by being in a fun team, working feels less like working. It feels like accomplishing something with friends.
I know playing or getting together is not for everyone. I am an introvert myself and I do love being alone. But as much as I love it, if I was alone in my job, I think I might go insane. There are so many stressful things and I need someone who experiences those same things to talk with. Having a friend who goes through this together really eases my burden.
They Are My Co-driver
Not literally, just to be clear. They are my co-driver who always teach and tell me if I’m wrong. I’m a type of person who learns by doing. YOLO (You Only Live Once) has always been what I do. I learn from my own mistakes. But, what if I don’t know what is wrong? What if I fail really really hard or be a burden to others because I do something really stupid, but I have no idea about it at all? Well, there is my team. I trust them that they will prevent me to do something outrageously stupid and I’m pretty sure they would scold and told me if I do something wrong.
Besides, as someone who has pretty great confidence, I still don’t think that I am the perfect person in every aspect. I still need someone to learn from. Well, they are not the shifu class, but there really are a lot to learn from them. Remember, different personalities, different backgrounds, different cultures, and so many other things are different. Being in a team gets you to see a lot of point of view of this life. It’s really interesting to listen to other’s opinions and learn from them.
Is it That Great Though?
Now that you’ve got a glimpse of my view about a team, you might think that a team is really great, beautiful, and all… Well... Reality is often disappointing. Not that I’m lying to you, but there is another side of a team you should hear too. Many things could go ugly if you choose to have a team.
Some say that being a team is already a full time job. It is expensive and time consuming. If you have three people in your team, your problems are tripled. If you have four, it quadruplets. Tiny problems could last for days or even weeks because of those arguments and team discussions. Sometimes I feel like it would have been a lot easier to be alone and decide on my own without anyone’s interference.
Betrayal too is very common here, especially if we are talking about money. Every thought in a meeting could turn negative when it comes to money. A very dangerous topic to talk about, but we can’t just let it slip away if we are working together as a team right?
I’m not the type of person who likes a debate. I am used to avoiding any debate. But in a team of a dozen people, I don’t think It is avoidable, unless everyone holds back. And holding back is worse when it comes to a relationship. It’s like planting seeds of anger and disappointment in yourself.
Sometimes it’s really tiring to have debates. But what keeps me going is the thought that we all want to achieve the same goal. We all want to succeed and be happy. The diversity is the cause of all those debates. But as I already said, diversity is good. Having debates in your team doesn’t mean that you are against each other. It’s you as a team, against the problem.
Now questions fly, “Do I really want a team? Do I really need them? Would I fit to be in a team? Is my team good enough?”. Different questions and different answers for everybody, correct. In my case, I see that my team really helps me a lot. I think being in a team is fun, and it is what keeps my working life happy. But to be considered, my team is a good team. A bad team is a big no for me. Pretty sure a bad team is only a burden and I prefer to be alone than being in a bad team. But hey, people change! If you are sure you can change your team to be good, why not?