You say you are part of a team? Think again

I remember this old fable of two men who worked in a hotel. Each had a unique responsibility. One of them had the responsibility of serving food for everyone. The other person had the responsibility of clearing away the table. Over time, both of them got very efficient and effective. One day, they were so into their jobs that the minute one served the food, the other cleared it away! The outcome? The customers never got to eat their food!

While the story may sound funny, in reality we do the same thing in our jobs. Over time, we tend to become so focused on what we do as our ‘job’ that we create boundaries around it. We start thinking in terms of ‘this is my job’ or ‘this isn’t my job’. In the process of excelling what we do, we forget what we need to do, and sometimes we also forget what we need to ‘not’ do as well.

Just as music is not an amalgamation of notes, a team is not an amalgamation of people. Teams emerge just as music emerges. The secret is in the experience! We call it the final output or outcome.

For enabling ‘experience’, a piece which is of utmost importance is in ‘transfer’. The best example of ‘transfer’ is in the circulatory system of our body. Imagine the number of veins & arteries the blood needs to travel through. In fact, this is an example of a well functioning team- so many single units doing their work so perfectly that we don’t even experience the flow. Thus how flawlessly one takes the task from the previous person and passes it on to the next could make the world of difference. In the body, any flaw in either of these could mean a heart attack.

n our business world, it could mean an interruption in the experience to the customer. Transfer thus could mean any of these.. knowledge, big picture, vision, task, etc. It isn’t just the responsibility of the ‘giver’. It is also about the ‘receiver’. Either could create an interruption to the experience. Transfer is about the two people in the moment whose responsibility it is, to give or take carefully.

So what stops teams to manage this transfer well? From the giver’s perspective, lack of patience, assumptions, high expectations, limited knowledge, ego, lack of clarity or awareness are some of the reasons the giver may fail in transferring well. From the receiver’s side, it could be over-confidence in past experience, ego, fear, insecurity about being seen as limited in information, any of these could restrict the person to take the task well. All of these that interrupt a good transfer could be a result of ‘self orientation’. This means the focus moved from the outcome or the customer experience to self.

Once giver and receiver shift focus from self to outcome, and once both spend more qualitative time together in understanding their unique role, they will impact the overall experience that much more positively for the customer. Asking questions, clarifying, sharing knowledge / information freely, etc., are all examples of a healthy transfer. Good transfer allows for careful tweaking of strategy to perfect execution.

When you see a group tap dancing together, can we really tell who is leading or who is being lead? Who cares really? From the viewer’s point, each and every person is a leader. The whole team is so in sync that there is an experience of beauty!

When we create this kind of sync, team emerges! What could happen when this happens across the organization? A winner emerges!

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One comment on “You say you are part of a team? Think again
  1. Surya says:

    The act of ‘transfer’ has been a subconscious action at work for genuine team players. By highlighting this, the author has acknowledged many a ‘natural’ team player, many a time taken for granted.

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