What do the Navy Seals, the LA Kings and top-sales groups all have in common? They’re all examples of high-performing teams. Whether they are running top secret missions behind enemy lines, winning Stanley Cups or closing deals, their success relies upon an ability to work together as a cohesive unit to accomplish their objectives. This is why it bothers me when a team member uses the word “I” when referring to a team achievement. By using the word “I”, the team member is saying “I did it all by myself, no one else helped on this win in any way”, which is rarely the case.
From personal experience, team wins dominate individual wins, in both frequency and value. Teams that work together and support each other benefit from the skills of the group, promote a positive team environment and tend to use the word “WE” more often. The teams that struggle to work together or place blame on others when a negative outcome occurs tend to use the word “I” more often.
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit” is a great Harry Truman quote that captures the essence of this concept. When the team wins, you win. When the team loses, you learn. As a sales leader, it’s important to remember this concept. When your team is doing well, you’ll benefit from it. There’s no need to take the credit for your team’s efforts. Make sure to give credit where credit is due and the team will appreciate it and respond well to it.
That being said, there is also a time and place to use the word “I”. An example of this is when contributing your views and opinions on a particular situation or topic. The issue with the word “I” is not when it’s used in this context, but rather when it’s used in reference to a team achievement. When an individual uses the word “I” in this situation, instead of making the individual look better, it actually makes them look worse.
As a coach/team lead, here’s my recommendation on tackling this:
– When talking about a win à WE
– When talking about a loss à WE
– When referencing results of the group à WE
- The only time “I” has a place in this discussion is when it’s your personal view or opinion
When to use “We” and “I”? That is the question.
For fun, keep track of this on your next team meeting, monthly sales call or during a day at the office. How many times do you use the word “We” vs “I”?