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The team trap

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I horrified an audience once when I called teamwork “the greatest productivity drain in contemporary business.” And likely, I've just had the same effect on you!

It's not that the idea of team isn't fundamentally bad. It's wonderful-- in situations where more than one mind or body is required to create an outcome. The trouble is that we tend to use them in situations when it's not.

The default to team has become our universal tactic for dealing with far too many things, slowing down our processes, reducing decisions to least-common-denominator solutions, raising risk aversion, and undermining responsibility and accountability.

In some businesses, the trend has grown into an epidemic movement. With individuals expecting, and becoming slighted, if they're not included in certain proceedings. And with no one able to take responsibility when things go wrong.

How often have you asked, "What went wrong?" or "Is this the best we can do?" and the answer started with, "Well, when we ..."

The point here isn't to ascribe blame, but rather to accelerate the pace of your business, and for individuals to become stronger by learning from their successes and their failures -- as individuals.

Becoming better starts with accepting responsibility that you need to be better.

Great and strong businesses are collections of great and strong individuals. Like an army, whose members have each stood on their own and been tested -- but with the capacity to come together and shoulder the weight of getting something complicated done together. And without abdicating the responsibility of any single individual to every other individual. And without any single individual's abdicating his or her individual responsibility to contribute to the success of the whole.

And that's where you come in, from your position in the Job At The Top.

For starters, yours is not a team job. People say "it's lonely at the top" for a reason. Yours is to think and act at a level different from everyone else. To seek counsel, but never to abdicate your responsibility for the health and integrity of your whole business.

Demonstrate this, and expect it from others, and you'll find the right times and the right balance in your business for individual and team contribution.

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Dick Cross

Dick Cross

Dick Cross is a serial CEO; a professional keynote speaker; a best-selling author; founder of The Cross Partnership Ltd.; and a founding member of Alston Capital Partners. Email him at Follow him on Twitter, @DickCross3.

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