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Presentation: Teamwork Is An Individual Skill

by Amr Elssamadisy on Apr 24, 2009 | NOTICE: The next QCon is in San Francisco Nov 3-7, Join us!

Christopher Avery presented at QCon 2008 in San Francisco Teamwork is an Individual Skill.  In this presentation suggests that teamwork is about you, the individual, taking ownership for the team's responsibilities and your relationships with others on the team instead of trying to determine who's fault it is when something doesn't get done.  Christopher provided InfoQ with a summary of this presentation:

Try defining a team as “a group of individuals responding successfully to an opportunity presented by a shared responsibility.” When you adopt this definition you realize “team” doesn't refer to a group or department, but to the desirable interpersonal dynamics of trust, respect, goodwill, and cooperation.

Those dynamics don’t always develop just because people are in a shared responsibility situation. “Shared responsibility” means the group is faced with a task that’s larger than any individual member, requires all members (at least), hence they can only win together.

But not all groups step up together when this situation presents itself. In fact, the opposite tends to be all too true. Groups tend more often to avoid, rather than successfully step up to, shared responsibility.

In this presentation, I share the most important principles I’ve discovered, and associated strategies you can use to confidently build any team any time.

You will learn about “problems between” at work offering the greatest opportunity to ad value -- and they aren’t assigned to you, or to anyone!

You will discover how the agile movement shares similar requirements as other movements over the last 30 years for a collaborative mindset and for assuming responsibility for integrating your work with that of others. And you’ll learn about “integrative power” and “personal agility” and where they come from and how to develop them.

You will explore the differences between managing “accountability” and “taking responsibility.” Indeed, the central organizing framework in the presentation is the “Responsibility Process”, a research-based model showing how personal responsibility works in the mind. You will learn how everyone is “hard-wired” both to avoid and take responsibility. How can that be? It turns out that taking ownership is what you have left wen you don’t accept your mind’s thoughts about avoiding ownership. This is difficult to explain in a brief article. You’ll understand it when you see it.

Put it this way -- experts have always said that taking 100% responsibility is the first principle of success. But they couldn’t tell you how to do that just that you should. This research shows you exactly where your thoughts are failing you if you aren't getting the results you want.

Then you will learn how to apply the Responsibility Process to build any team any time. You’ll rely on a set of steps and strategies that leaders of all types and cultures have found give partnerships, groups, and collaborations the greatest opportunity to successfully step up to a shared responsibility. The include:

  • assuming responsibility for the productivity of the team (someone has to, and since your reputation and paycheck may depends on it...)
  • getting people feeling like they are in the same boat together
  • surfacing and tapping into existing peer motivation so everyone wins
  • making and keeping agreements that stick and create supportive “designer norms” for the group.


Remember, learning to get things done with others over whom you have no control may be your single greatest career lever. I think you’ll find some effective principles and strategies in this presentation.

So, if you are experiencing "people problems", you will probably find a take-away or two in this presentation.

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