Whenever I teach a class or give a presentation on teamwork, I always give the old adage of "There's no 'I' or 'U' in the word TEAM." Just like clockwork, as if drawn by the laws of physics, someone will shout out, "Yah, but there is a 'ME'!" I then enthusiastically reply, "YES!" My astute audience member is right, the word "ME" can be found in the word "TEAM" and that is exactly what leaders should be working to do - finding the "ME" in their own teams. Encouraging the "ME" is recognizing the individual effort and contribution that bring diversity and depth to any team endeavor. Every team member brings a unique set of talents, skill, and abilities to the group. If leaders want their teams to really succeed, they need to encourage that uniqueness and remember: "It's all about the "ME!" Here are some easy ways to encourage the "ME" and catapult your team to the next level:

Serve "ME"

To bring out the "ME" it's imperative that leaders create an atmosphere of trust and cooperation from serving the team. Team members should know that you are with them every step of the way because of your actions, not your words. If we want the creative lightening that comes from the "ME" of team members, leaders need to show their own. Revealing your own "ME" as a leader models the way for others and demonstrates authenticity. Although letting your inhibitions go and revealing your true "ME" may seem risky, it's the only way to serve.

Embrace "ME"

It's not enough to accept diversity; leaders have to embrace diversity. Welcome it with open arms, hug it, squeeze it, and never let it go. We should embrace all facets of diversity - not only the diversity we see, but also (and equally important) the diversity of new thoughts and new ideas. That is at the heart of encouraging the "ME." Bring those "nay-sayers" to the team; bring the resisters; bring them all - they all have something to contribute. The greater the diversity of the team, the greater the depth of thought and action. Go deep and wide with diversity!

Rewarding "ME"

As important as it is to reward the team as a whole for great work, it's even more important to acknowledge those who really put all of their "ME" into the effort. It is important to note that there is a delicate balance to maintain in this effort. A leader has to know who has done what, when they did it, how it contributed to the whole and, ABOVE ALL ELSE, not leave any "ME's" out. This is why we "Serve" the team first. As leaders, we know because we are there. It gives us the depth we need to be specific and authentic in our praise. If you want to see it again, you have to reward it!

The "ME" in team is about investment - leaders and team members investing themselves into the project, process and each other. The job can get done with out it, but it lacks the luster it could have if all put in their "ME's." It's very much like the difference between eating packaged cookies vs. home made. Packaged are good and can get the job done in satisfying a craving but home made have that extra, lip-smacking goodness that keeps people coming back for more. The latter is made with an investment of the individual, sharing their special talents. It was made with "ME." Invest in your team today and remember, it's all about "ME!"

Author's Bio: 

Chip Lutz is a professional speaker, trainer, and retired Navy Officer with 22 years leadership experience. He speaks and trains on the power of positive leadership and the infusion of humor in the workplace to increase morale, productivity, and teamwork. He served as Commanding Officer of two separate Navy Facilities and was the Director of Security for Naval District Washington, DC during September 11th, 2001. Additionally, he is adjunct faculty for two colleges where he teaches classes in leadership, teamwork, and organizational behavior. He is a part time super hero and great all around guy. Chip Lutz - fire tested and mother approved! Check out his work at www.covenantleadership.com.