With a significant  increase in demand for teams of interims from organisations across the private and public sector, John Bloor reflects upon examples of collaborative team working in other walks of life and whether team orders really work.

When management speak first emerged as an irritating language of its own we wondered what on earth “walking the talk” or “talking the walk” was and if it really added to our general understanding of life. There was one particular colleague of mine who always came up with the mantra “There’s No I in Team” if he wasn’t getting his way.  I think that was supposed to bring out the guilt, but there is now another trend emerging around the very idea of a team player that will surprise many.

There’s No Team In I

Recent events have provided us with some lovely examples of the reverse phrase, “There’s No Team in I.” As a piece of management speak babble, this is now unfortunately a much more accurate reflection of human nature, particularly amongst the ‘Haves’ who are really only interested in ‘Having More’.  The ‘Have Nots’, on the other hand, will be much more in the “There’s no I in Team” camp, because it might be the only way they will get to join in.

Be a Good Sport, Following Team Orders

To draw on an example of this from the sporting world, F1 driver Sebastian Vetell wanted to win  a recent race. He was in second place with his team mate in first and was ordered not to overtake. He ignored the order, overtook, won the race and ended up alienating both his team mate and boss. Nico Rosberg was ordered to do the same thing in the same race and he obeyed team orders even though he really didn’t want to.

 There is a T in Politics

Over in Cyprus we are seeing a different, tougher, attitude towards EU member states requiring a bail out from the European Union “team”.  Reasons for this individualistic approach include German politicians’ preoccupation with their own re-election and Cyprus’s poor standing and lack of choice in the overall scheme of things.  According to Forbes, there are 25 private individuals in the world whose net worth is bigger than Cyprus’s annual GDP. So if a few people in a little place like Cyprus lose a little bit of money out of their bank accounts, it’s not going to have any knock on effect elsewhere is it?  Of course not. Look at Lehman’s; letting them go has had no lasting impact on the world as we knew it, has it?

Not Such a Special Relationship

Across the Atlantic, the concept of fair play and Team Orders has always struck me as being one of the things that, from the Brits’ point of view, has underpinned the ‘Special Relationship’ with the USA. But not from the perspective of the USA, I suspect, who will have a ‘Special Relationship’ with which ever country or countries happens to suit their purpose at the time, usually coinciding with a presidential visit.  How does the concept of  Team Orders affect Nuclear Non Proliferation Policy? Not much if your name is Kim Jong-un or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – although interestingly it was the “Haves” that set the Team Orders rather than the “Have Nots”.

So team orders don’t always work, do they? It’s only ever really about self interest. Pity. Perhaps they should take a look at what is happening in the world of interim management where collaborative working and a team approach are on the increase, proving that although there may be an I in interim, there is also very much a T too.

What is your view on team working and Team Orders? Have you worked in a team of interims before? What was the outcome? Please share your experience with our community in the comments below.

photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

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  • Derek Starling

    This could be a very long discussion! Team members have roles and in a lot of teams the specialists are very highly rewarded. I cannot imagine Vettel or Webber getting out of bed for the salaries paid to the members of their teams who work in the pits so are they really members of the team? Would team orders have been the same if Alonso had been leading Webber and Vettel thought he get past both?
    Take Manchester United, there are stoppers and goal getters but basically the aim is to get the ball to someone like RVP who gets the goals and its also the reason he is amongst the highest paid.
    Working in a team can be good fun and very motivating but I’m sure that neither Vettel or RVP would take a cut in their pay no matter how much they enjoy participating in their team.
    Team suggests democracy but a leaderless team will not achieve its objectives as successfully as a well led team but a well led team will always do better than a group of “i’s” no matter how well they are directed.

    • John Bloor

      Yes, interesting point about salaries being another dimension in this debate - I guess you might include investment bankers as another group difficult to coral under team orders. I also think you are absolutely right to talk about “well led teams” as there is a difference between teams that have good leadership and teams that simply have strong leadership. RBS and HBOS may be examples of the latter - and we also see that the good invariably gives way to the strong in our political parties after a while.