Sir Mix-a-lot

Teams vs. Groups and the power of Trust

Rapper Sir Mix-a-lot, in his song “Posse on Broadway” said “I’ve got a def posse, you’ve got a bunch of dudes…” and that’s got me thinking about the distinction. Between a def posse and a bunch of dudes. Surely most people driving past Dick’s Hamburger Stand in Seattle on a Saturday night couldn’t tell the difference but Mix-a-lot could tell, and he had no problem calling it out. In the spirit of his 1988 hit, I’d like to do the same.

You’ve got a bunch of employees and we’ve got a Team. Admittedly, this doesn’t sound nearly as cool.

To get there properly I need to talk about some truths I hold sacred:

1. A leader is responsible to those in their charge. They exist to provide whatever the Team needs: advice, resources, knowledge, removal of obstacles, etc… that’s their hallowed duty. Anyone claiming to be a leader who does otherwise doesn’t understand the distinction between a leader and a boss.

2. A leader builds Trust through their actions. We are what we repeatedly do, not what we repeatedly say. Trust is essential to turn groups into Teams.

3. There is no more powerful force in business than a Team. Not every group of people in a company are a Team. Most aren’t. A group only turns into a Team with Trust.

4. There’s nothing faster or more effective than Trust. For Trust to take root people need to be honest and they need to speak the same language.

How do you know when a group has become a Team?

  • When no one utters the phrase “that’s not my job.”
  • When people go out of their way to anticipate the needs of their teammates and to solve problems that don’t affect them directly.
  • When staying late, coming in early, and doing work out of your comfort zone come without a second thought because you know anyone else would do it for you.
  • When people don’t waste energy watching their backs. They form a perfect circle facing the challenges of the day secure in the knowledge that the Team has their back – that the Team IS their back.
  • When no one wastes time pretending to be smarter, more talented, more capable – everyone enjoys the safety of shared honesty and self-awareness.  

Someone once referred to me being on their team (not someone I reported to) and I shuddered a little. This person didn’t care about me. They didn’t care about my actual Team. They didn’t seek to make our lives easier in any way, to share the load, or to be more effective. Nothing about our relationship indicated we were on the same team, let alone Team. We were in a group and groups are nothing. I’ve been in thousands of groups. I was in a group of people standing in line at the bank the other day and none of us would have mistaken our grouping for a team or Team.

If you want a def posse and not a bunch of dudes you have to:

  • Have Integrity. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Walk your talk. Live what you believe. People remember.
  • Be free with trust so you can establish Trust. Let others take advantage if they will, there’s no quicker way to get to capital “T” Trust than by giving it freely. If you require doctors notes for sick days you don’t trust people.
  • Be a servant to those in your charge. Jesus didn’t order people to work late, he washed feet. Remove obstacles, free up resources, solve problems, make their lives easier and your team will quickly reciprocate. You may be in charge but you’re responsible for those in your charge before anything else.

That’s it. That’s what I’ve got for you today. If you want advice on how to turn a group into a team into a Team, don’t hesitate to let me know; I’m always open to dialogue about what’s possible.