7 Signs It’s Not Really A Team

In my world the word team is used almost on a daily basis. Most of us want to be in a team environment. However, in my experience working with churches – and it was true when I was in business also – more people claim to have it than actually do.

I still see more control than empowerment. I see more internal silos than I see true cooperation. I see rules and policies being used to restrict actions – or so-called “protect” the organization – than I see freedom to explore as individuals within the healthy structure of a defined team objective.

I’ve learned to look for a few signs when someone tells me they have a team environment.

Here are 7 indicators it’s really not a team:

One person makes all the decisions.

Most who think they have a true team culture will skip this one, because many times they don’t even see it happening. But, if everyone has to wait for the team “leader” to make a decision – or if things continually stall because one person hasn’t yet voiced their opinion – it’s probably less of a team than proposed. On a team, at some point, everyone sits in a seat of authority. There is a mutual trust and empowerment of others.

Everyone doesn’t have a key role.

On a real team – all players are needed. They may not all play the same amount of time and they fill different positions, because everyone is valued.

There are multiple agendas.

One thing which makes it a team is everyone is playing for the same objective. Without this there is more competition than there is cooperation.

Communication is controlled.

Teams share information. They continually update one another on what they are individually contributing to the team and weigh in on decisions. Team dynamics are damaged with only a few people know everything for when the most important conversations are held – or decisions are made for the team – outside the team.

Conflict is seen as a threat.

Healthy teams work through conflict and remain cooperative and supportive of one another. Everyone is allowed to challenge ideas and offer opposition, but in a way which can make the team stronger and learn how to work better together.

Every person is for themselves.

The greatest value of a team is in the collective wisdom and shared workload. Healthy teams cross-train so they can pick up slack for others when needed. When teams function more as individuals than as a team members can become overwhelmed, frustrated and eventually burnout.

Celebration is received individually over collectively.

It will always be moments where one member is getting more recognition than another. But, on healthy teams, wins are celebrated together. No one claims personal credit for the victories.

Those are a few clues which tell me it’s really not a team. There are certainly others. (Be a part of my team and add your own in the comments.)

You can call it what you want – could be a group, or an association, or even an organization.

But it’s not a team. I might instead call it a crowd.

One way to process this post is to discuss it with your “team”. Perhaps even let them respond to it anonymously.

It should be noted. There are times when we don’t need a team. We need a leader who will stand even if alone and lead people to places they can’t yet see but where they need to go. I have found those times to be rare when I have a healthy team. This post addresses teams – and we need them more often.

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9 thoughts on “7 Signs It’s Not Really A Team

  1. When I read this, I thought also of how a "team" could be as small as just two people– namely, a marriage. I can see how we could get caught up in everyday life and miss these signs as they slowly creep into the dynamics of a home. Not only could these be harmful issues for any team, but also for those looking to that team for guidance (in the case of a marriage- the children and/or others who may see the couple as role models for their own relationships).

    Thank you, Bro. Ron, for sharing another powerful post with us! 🙂

    • That's a great question. I wasn't thinking of elders when I rote this — really thinking more in the organizational sense than in the Biblical sense. We do lots of things the Bible doesn't clearly spell out for us. But, I could see elements of this in how an elder body functions. Much of that would depend on their scope of work described by the bylaws of the church. 
      Twitter: Ronedmondson