There Is No “I” in “Team”?


There is no “i” in team? Of course there is.

What first-person pronoun might any team member use?  How about me, myself, and I?  If that troika is not on your team, please tell me who is.

With respect to “me,” organizational change management practitioners are advised to

… clearly articulate what is changing, how the change benefits or affects the organization, and how the change affects him or her individually (often referred to as “What’s In It For Me”). If people see progress they can relate to, then they are more likely to continue the change effort and help to reach the future state and sustain the change.  (ACMP Standard for Change 5.2.1)

Prosci puts it this way:

Making a change is a personal choice, no matter what senior leaders believe. Communications about change must resonate. To be effective, communications must get at what an employee cares about and values. To gain their support, you must provide a compelling case for how they will be better off or what they get out of engaging in the change. Answer WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) early and often in your communications. (Prosci Change Communication Checklist)


OK, so we do need to recognize each individual team member and somehow answer for each, “What’s in it for me?”

With knowledge of a proposed change and its expected business benefits, we could imagine how individuals might be better off or what they might get out of engaging in the change:

  • You’ll have a single sign-on
  • Forms will pre-populate and eliminate duplicate data entry
  • Metrics will appear on a new dashboard
  • You can drill down to view data in customized ways without creating a custom report format
  • System response time will improve
  • Customer records will now include a lifetime value score
  • And on, and on, and on, including
  • You will still have a job

Who wouldn’t love all of that?

Does this list of new or improved system functionality and related processes and policies really get at what an employee cares about and values?  And will stating this or any list of imagined–or even reasonably expected–benefits early and often (seven times in seven ways) create a compelling case for any particular individual?

How are we to know, for each individual, what they care about and value, and if we were to know, how could we incorporate that information into anything but hundreds or thousands of highly individualized and personalized communications?  Both the possibility and practicality of such an approach seem problematic.

Another Approach

Ask, don’t tell.

Let’s move from a transactional approach (here’s how you will be better off; here’s what you will get out of the change) to a relational approach (how do you see and value the change?).

In the former, I’m telling you (and mostly guessing) in exchange for your support. That’s the transaction. In the latter, you’re telling me (and you know you best), identifying your values, and offering your support.

Rather than seeking to compel through artful communication, what if we seek to elicit, engender, and engage?  Rather than describing potential benefits, what if we allow for their discovery?

It could work like this.  Leaders closest to affected employees present clear and consistent statements of intended business benefits (something like the list above) and then, perhaps in a team meeting, invite each employee to question, consider, and respond.  A worksheet would encourage respondents to externalize thoughts and feelings while preserving privacy if desired.

What appears on each worksheet, for each employee, are highly individualized, personal responses that are much more likely to include what’s really important and valued.

Now we know what employees care about and value, and how that aligns with proposed changes, because each one has told us.  Better yet, each employee knows in their own words from their own point of view. No guess work. Deeper employee engagement through participative discovery. Voluntary alignment and commitment to support and achieve what’s valued. And opportunities to reveal unforeseen impacts or concerns.

Some say “There is no I in team, but there is me,” and as for me, that’s most important.

Have you implemented a similar approach?

Learn. Do. Teach. Lead.


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