You can’t “team build” a committee.

Phil Jackson: “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”

Alan Weiss: “You can’t team build a committee.”

All of the groups I’ve worked with over the course of my professional career have been committees, not teams. Teams succeed or fail together. Committee members work together and collaborate, but their success is not dependent on the team’s success. Committee members contribute only up to the point where their contribution doesn’t hurt their own clout or career. Teams, on the other hand, require sacrifice by key team members to the bigger goals.

Corporate “team building” activities and company “retreats” never yield a better team and are a big waste of time almost every time. Furthermore, teams that are actual teams oftentimes are quite dysfunctional:

  • Teammates don’t always get along with each other. Sometimes teammates even hate each other.
  • Teams oftentimes require a coach or high-level stakeholder with skin in the game to stir discourse to get the team focused on the goals.
  • Teams require key players to be “pulling the rope” in the same direction. However, non-key players can be aloof, pulling a different direction, or not present at all.
  • Teammates on successful teams often compete directly with each other for workloads, accolades, and money rewards. Nothing legit says that successful teams need to be friends, compassionate, giving, etc. It’s a rare team that has a great time doing something great.

Honest company leaders should instead say:

  • We’re here to get the job done, not make friends. So get the job done.
  • If I feel you’re not getting the job done, I’ll hold you accountable up to and including firing you.
  • I expect you to be curious about important situations affecting the business. Not being curious is a fireable offense!
  • Collaborate and communicate, as needed, to get the job done. (or else!)

Teams don’t exist in business, so let’s stop pretending they do.

Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO and WordPress Guru. He also writes for WPTavern.com.