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45. You Can't Spell "Team" Without "Me"

Perhaps one of the most fundamental challenges in business is trying to convince individuals to do what’s best for the collective. Hence the phrase, “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’.”

The problem here is that employees will never work for free and they are unlikely to completely forgo their well-being for their organizations. That’s not being selfish, that’s just human nature.

Indeed, self-agency is universal. We are self-interested beings and operate within social units. We recognize that our self-interests can be maximized when we work within collective entities. The goal was never to join an organization to serve its mission. The goal was to serve our mission (e.g., financial security, sense of purpose/community) through a pre-existing business model.

Thus, I would argue that “you can’t spell ‘team’ without ‘me’.” Instead of trying to persuade employees to put the organization’s collective interests above their self-interests, focus on aligning employees’ needs and preferences with collective goals. That’s both fair and more realistic.


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