Who Owns What in a Team Environment?

The above question recently reared its ugly head in my world and I’m surprised I never really thought of it before now.  When working in team environments, people often create ideas or fulfill actions for the benefit of the team.  However, when they bring these items back to the team for the team’s input or approval, tricky stuff can surface.  Take event planning for example.  In these situations, when someone goes away and works hard on an event agenda, that person can find it difficult to accept major changes to their design.

I think it is because people often feel like they “own” these items and are protective of their work.  Ironically, this conflict causing ownership also contributes to engagement.  People who are detached from what they do offer little passion and are less likely to be efficient and effective. We want people to own what they do; however, we also want them to be open to the group’s input on their ideas or activities since they affect the common goals of the team.

This effect was pointed out to me by Bob Chartier, one of Canada’s foremost Engagement and Leadership Practitioners.  Since this conversation, I have thought of a few ways to to circumvent this quagmire of potential conflict:

  1. Have a team conversation about this effect. The best time to do this is during a Team Charter process.  However, if the team hasn’t done a Team Charter or didn’t talk about this issue during it, then perhaps it could be mentioned when someone first works on something on behalf of the team.
  2. Team Leader check-in.  A good team leader should pay attention to how a contributor is dealing with feedback on their ideas or contributions from other team members.  If tension is possible, then it might be a good time to have a one-on-one private conversation with that person to ensure that they understand the value and the need for the team to weigh in on contributions from individuals and to encourage them if their ideas were tinkered with in a major way or dismissed outright.
  3. Let the Contributor go first.  Another technique that might work to lessen the impact of these situations is for the contributor to offer their own input into the idea or work before opening it up to judgment from other team members.  For example, “This is the agenda that I pulled together from our conversation last meeting.  This is what I like about it …. This is what i dislike about about it …  What do you think?
  4. Pay attention to the language.  Instead of thinking of the work as “my agenda” when doing the legwork, it might be more effective to re-frame it as “our agenda.”  A simple trick to boost emotional intelligence when our own ideas are collaborated upon.

Other landmines are when feedback is offered unsolicited or when an individual feels micromanaged by the team on their assignments.  Good topics for future blog posts.

As always, if you would like to contribute, post a comment below, tweet me (@gsjonuk), or email it to me at thejonuks@shaw.ca.

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