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TeamWisdom at Work

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TeamWisdom is a set of individual skills and behaviors that leads to highly responsible and productive relationships at work. Avery can discuss the four ways TeamWisdom can boost your career, plus offer a five-step action plan to achieve it.
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Content Preview
TeamWisdom at Work
In the new workplace of flat structures, all work is teamwork.
Now a leading expert debunks the myths about how teams
work and puts the focus on individual skill, not group process.
“I got put on a bad team.”
Fast Facts About Teams*
> Nearly one-half of
Are you tired of hearing it? Or, above all, saying it?
all organizations
use teams.

It’s a common excuse for lackluster team performance from even the most intelligent
and experienced professionals, says Christopher Avery, a leading expert on teamwork
> Teams are more
and author of Teamwork Is an Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When
prevalent in
Sharing Responsibility (Berrett-Koehler, $18.95).
organizations
with multiple

According to Avery, as long as you believe that teamwork is a group skill—and consider
divisions, multiple
others responsible for your team experience—you’ll continue to suffer, particularly in the
departments,
new workplace of “flat structures” that requires you to know how to work effectively in
higher sales, and
and through groups.
more employees.
Until now, the available resources on teamwork put the emphasis on group process and
> The average team
ignored the role of the individual, says Avery, founder and president of Partnerwerks, a
size is 11 members.
Texas-based consulting firm whose clients include AT&T, BMC Software, IBM, 3M, and
Whole Foods. He developed the “TeamWisdom” technology—a set of individual skills
> Nearly two-thirds
and behaviors that leads to a stellar team experience—that focuses on taking personal
of all teams have
responsibility, creating strong partnerships, establishing shared purpose, trusting “just
a formal leader,
right,” and developing a collaborative mindset.
though three-
quarters of teams

In Teamwork Is an Individual Skill, Avery tackles the “mythology” of teamwork—
consider members
debunking destructive and age-old myths, like team members must subordinate their
equals.
self-interests for the good of the team—and offers a variety of tips, case studies, and
personal and teambuilding exercises. Among the ideas and issues he covers are:
> Consensus is the
>
How to take personal responsibility for your team experience
primary decision-
making technique

>
Why motivation is more important to teamwork than talent
used within teams.
>
Why teammates don’t have to like one another for their team to be successful
> The most common
>
Why the most powerful member on any team is the one who cares the least
tasks for teams
>
The five conversations every team should have
are interacting
>
The “tit-for-tat” relationship strategy and why every team member should know
with a stream of
and use it
customers, solving
quality problems,

>
How to know if your team is “built” (and what to do if it’s not)
building products,
>
The mindsets that most often cause teams to fail
formulating strategy,
and developing

>
Why “team player” is an outdated and insulting label
new products.
—more—
www.partnerwerks.com

>
>
How to trust “just right” and why it’s important to teamwork
Nearly two-thirds of
organizations that

>
What to do when a teammate leaves you holding the bag
use teams keep the
>
How “fast teams” reach consensus quickly and harmoniously
personalities of
individuals in mind
as they select or

————————————————
replace team
members.

Christopher M. Avery, Ph.D., author of Teamwork Is an Individual
>
Skill, is a nationally recognized thought leader on teamwork among
Nearly one-third of
professionals and executives. Founder and president of Texas-based
organizations that
Partnerwerks, he is a sought-after consultant, trainer, and speaker, and
use teams formally
counts AT&T, BMC Software, IBM, Landmark Graphics, 3M, and Whole
appraise team
Foods among his many clients. Avery earned a master’s degree in
performance, while
organizational communication from Bowling Green State University and
only slightly more
a doctorate in the communication of technology from the University of
than one-quarter
Texas. A monthly columnist for the 3M Meeting Network, he also writes
base pay in part on
“TeamWisdom Tips,” a digital weekly read by professionals in some 40
team performance.
countries. He lives in Comfort, Texas with his wife and two young sons.
> Slightly more
than one-third
Partnerwerks—German for “people working productively together”—
of organizations
is a leading performance development firm that supports executives
that use teams
and professionals in building world-class teams. Founded in 1991
employ live practice
on Avery’s doctoral research, the firm documents and promotes
or simulations to
best practices for people collaborating under competitive conditions,
train teams as a
through leadership development seminars, custom team support,
whole, while only
and change management services.
slightly more than
one-quarter use
interpersonal or

TEAMWORK IS AN INDIVIDUAL SKILL
diversity training.
Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility
Christopher M. Avery, Ph.D.
*Small Group Research
Journal, December 1999
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
ISBN 1-57675-155-4
Softcover, 196 pages
$18.95
April 2001
For more information, contact Patti Danos at (312) 335-1464 or pattidanos@aol.com.
www.partnerwerks.com
©2001 Christopher M. Avery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Interview Topics
Christopher M. Avery, Ph.D., is a nationally recognized thought leader on teamwork
among professionals and executives. Founder and president of Texas-based Partnerwerks—
German for “people working productively together”—he is author of Teamwork Is an
Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility
(Berrett-
Koehler, $18.95) and editor of “TeamWisdom Tips,” a digital weekly for professionals
in some 40 countries. Avery can serve as an expert resource on teamwork for business
media contacts who focus on management, careers, and the workplace. The topics
below offer some of the many possibilities.
>
Teamwork: Why it’s an individual skill, not a group process
In today’s workplace, all work is teamwork. But what does it take to make a team
work? Avery can discuss why it’s individual responsibility—not group process—that
matters most and pinpoint the five skill sets that create a positive team experience.
>
TeamWisdom: What is it, and why does it matter to your career?
TeamWisdom is a set of individual skills and behaviors that leads to highly responsible
and productive relationships at work. Avery can discuss the four ways TeamWisdom
can boost your career, plus offer a five-step action plan to achieve it.
>
The 8 most common myths about teamwork: The truths behind them, and why
they’re important to your team
The “mythology” of teamwork fools even the most intelligent and experienced
professionals. Avery can debunk the most common myths and explain the power
of the truths behind them.
>
Motivation first, skills second: Why commitment is more important than talent
when it comes to teamwork
When teamwork is important, skills must come after factors like drive, energy, interest,
motivation, and enthusiasm. Avery can discuss why it’s shared desire—not talent—
that creates teamwork and why skills will follow when a team arrives at commitment.
>
Friendship or focus? Why team members don’t have to like one another, but do
need a shared interest in a common result
Encouraging affinity for a shared task—not for each other—is the fastest and surest
way to create cohesion on any team. Avery can discuss why your team should skip
the exercises and techniques to promote friendships and work to adopt a common
focus instead.
—more—
www.partnerwerks.com

>
Your team is formed, so now what? The 5 conversations any new team must have
Team members must learn to make their needs and desires known without ambiguity.
Avery can discuss the five critical conversations for every new team and why they lead
to optimal performance.
>
The most powerful member on your team: Like it or not, he’s the one who cares
the least.
The most powerful member on your team isn’t your team leader. Or your most
inspired team member. Or even your smartest member. Sad but true, it’s your
least-invested member. Avery can discuss the reasons behind this uncomfortable
reality and how to address motivation issues early, directly, and regularly.
>
Is your team “built”? What it means and how to get there
A team is “built” if its members share direction and energy. Avery can discuss
what it takes to get there, including a five-step orientation process that begins
with examination and results in momentum.
>
Team player? Why it’s an outdated and insulting label
The moniker “team player” often refers to an individual who’s compliant—a “yes”
person who goes along to get along. Avery can discuss why team players add very
little to the team experience and explain why being authentic is more important than
being nice in today’s workplace.
>
Why teams fail: The 5 mindsets that sabotage teams and how to overcome them
It’s a team’s attitude that most often causes it to fail. Avery can discuss the five
mindsets that doom most teams and the best fix for each of them.
>
Hierarchies and teams: Why they can and should be compatible
The “tall” structure of hierarchies can be a problem for the “flat” structure of teams.
However, when hierarchies are done well, teamwork can flourish. Avery can discuss
what makes the best hierarchies work and why they’re compatible with teams.
For more information, contact Patti Danos at (312) 335-1464 or pattidanos@aol.com.
www.partnerwerks.com
©2001 Christopher M. Avery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

More Interview Topics
>
Tit-for-tat: Why it’s the best strategy for teaching others how to cooperate with you
Derived from game theory, computer science, and evolutionary psychology, “tit-for-tat”
makes others aware of their responsibility for your relationship. Avery can explain the
two rules of this simple relationship strategy and how and why the strategy works.
>
Fast teams: Their 5 secrets for reaching consensus quickly and harmoniously
Fast teams reach consensus with a high-velocity decision-making process. Avery can
discuss how they achieve it—five secrets that include considering more rather than
fewer alternatives and involving more rather than fewer people—and why any team
can do it if they have nothing to hide and don’t fear losing a fight.
>
Accountability versus responsibility: How they’re different but equally important
to teamwork
Accountability and responsibility are complementary rather than identical forces.
Avery can discuss the differences between them—for starters, accountability can be
assigned, while responsibility can only be taken—and explain why team members
must take accountability for deliverables and responsibility for relationships.
>
Left holding the bag, again? 7 steps for discussing violations of trust truthfully
and completely
When someone leaves you holding the bag, you can live with the relationship in its
damaged state or remove yourself from it completely. However, if the relationship
is important to you, you must chart a new course by engaging the individual in a
conversation about the broken agreement. Avery can discuss how to do it with a
proven seven-step process.
>
Cleaning up broken agreements: 4 steps for resuscitating a relationship when
you break an agreement
What happens if you break an agreement? Rather than sweep it under the rug,
you should clean it up immediately. Avery can discuss how to gain back trust
and confidence with a four-step clean-up process.
>
Virtual teamwork: Why technology doesn’t create better teamwork
If teamwork is challenging, then virtual teamwork is just plain difficult. Avery can
discuss why technology won’t provide you with better team skills—it merely supports
communication across distance—and why first developing and demonstrating those
skills in co-located groups works best.
—more—
www.partnerwerks.com

>
Personal responsibility: 9 keys to taking responsibility for your team experience
Some people go from project to project doing little more than hoping the team will
provide them with a good experience. Or they come to expect a mediocre team
experience, not a great one. Avery can discuss why teamwork is an individual skill—
not a group process—and reveal nine keys to taking responsibility for the team
experience.
>
Creating powerful partnerships: 10 principles for turning every relationship at
work into a collaboration
Powerful partners support each other in winning without exception. Avery can
discuss how they do it by sharing 10 tried-and-true principles.
>
Collaborating “on” purpose: 10 secrets for discovering common goals that unite
and inspire your team
The best teams discover common goals that unite their members and cause them
to naturally collaborate “on” purpose. Avery can discuss the role of shared purpose
and the 10 secrets that lead to its power.
>
Trusting just right: 10 ways to make any relationship better by trusting neither
too little nor too much
Do you get burned by trusting too much? Or lose opportunities by trusting too little?
Avery can discuss why trust relates more to what you do than what others do and
share how to get the most from every relationship with 10 strategies for trusting
“just right.”
>
The collaborative mindset: 11 strategies for stepping up to the highest level
of teamwork
Great collaborators build and maintain great relationships because their mind
is tuned for collaboration. Avery can discuss 11 uncommon strategies that push
the boundaries of collaborative principles and action.
>
Playing a win-win game in a win-lose world: Why teamwork would be easy
without the contradictory demands of hierarchies, bureaucracies, and politics
It isn’t teamwork that’s difficult. It’s initiating teamwork in a world that’s antagonistic
toward teamwork. Avery can discuss how to rise above the competition and the
win-lose intentions to play a win-win game.
For more information, contact Patti Danos at (312) 335-1464 or pattidanos@aol.com.
www.partnerwerks.com
©2001 Christopher M. Avery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Recommended
Interview Questions
>
What is the “big idea” of Teamwork Is an Individual Skill?
>
Why do you believe teamwork isn’t a group process?
>
How can individuals take responsibility for their team experience when it’s influenced
by so many others, including the team leader?
>
You’ve developed a technology called “TeamWisdom.” What is it, and why is it
important in today’s workplace?
>
What are some of the most common myths about teamwork? How do they work
against teams and organizations?
>
You say that teammates don’t have to like one another for their team to be
successful. Why not? What other factors are more important to their success?
>
You say that motivation is more important to teamwork than talent. Why is that?
>
What are the five conversations every new team should have?
>
Who’s the most powerful member on any team? Why are there no exceptions?
>
You advocate a relationship strategy called “tit-for-tat.” What is it, and how and why
does it work?
>
What is a “built” team, and what does it take to achieve it?
>
What are the mindsets that most often cause a team to fail?
>
How and why should teams differentiate between accountability and responsibility?
>
What do you mean by trusting “just right”?
>
What do you mean by collaborating “on” purpose?
>
How do “fast teams” reach consensus quickly and harmoniously?
>
How should teams manage broken agreements and other violations of trust?
>
Why is “team player” an outdated and even insulting label?
For more information, contact Patti Danos at (312) 335-1464 or pattidanos@aol.com.
www.partnerwerks.com
©2001 Christopher M. Avery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Achieving TeamWisdom
5 steps to getting started
>
Step 1: Assume personal responsibility for your team’s productivity.
Tell your teammates that you’ll only do work that leads to the entire team’s success
and that you won’t meet your goals unless the team meets its goals. Let them know
that you’ll do everything in your power to help the team gel and operate at superior
levels of performance.
>
Step 2: Get in the same boat together.
Ask your teammates to put aside individual roles and to focus on what you’ll
accomplish collectively. Ask them to think of the team as a single unit—indivisible
into smaller units—and to answer the question, “What must this unit do?” Make that
task your “super-objective” and give it more importance than any other goals or
objectives.
>
Step 3: Determine what’s in it for you, then what’s in it for them.
Once you know your super-objective, ask yourself, “What’s in it for me to pursue this
task?” Prioritize your answers until you truly understand your motivation, then ask
your teammates the same question.
>
Step 4: Make and keep agreements.
Create a list of how the team “should” behave in individual and group interactions,
including communication issues like timeliness, participation, openness, honesty,
respect, and confidentiality. Then prioritize the list in terms of which expectations,
if turned into operating agreements, would be the most productive for the team.
>
Step 5: Call it!
Ask your teammates to agree to “call” each other on behavior that’s inconsistent
with the agreements, as well as with the team’s task and team members’ interests.
Make each call immediately and in a manner that allows the behavior to be
examined and corrected.
For more information, contact Patti Danos at (312) 335-1464 or pattidanos@aol.com.
www.partnerwerks.com
©2001 Christopher M. Avery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

The 8 Most Common
Myths About Teamwork
It’s time to debunk them and get your team on the right track.
Myth:
Individuals aren’t responsible for the quality of their team experience
because teamwork is a group skill.
Truth:
This is a popular belief that causes even the smartest and most highly skilled
individuals to excuse their poor performance by saying, “I got put on a bad
team.” Individuals make a vast difference on teams and should act on all of
their personal abilities to affect their entire team’s performance.
Myth:
Managers and consultants are responsible for building teams.
Truth:
Teambuilding is a series of specific communications or conversations that occur
between people who share responsibility to get something done. Team members
can and must learn to have these conversations on their own, particularly since a
manager or consultant isn’t always there.
Myth:
Team members’ skills are more important than their motivation.
Truth:
When teamwork is important, skills should come after factors like drive, energy,
interest, motivation, and enthusiasm because it’s shared desire—not talent—
that creates teamwork. It’s also true that low motivation is more infectious on
teams than high motivation. And while skilled individuals act within their roles,
committed team members improvise to get the job done.
Myth:
For a team to be really successful, its team members must like one another.
Truth:
Teams that encourage affinity for a shared task—not for one another—create
the strongest group cohesion. Rather than using exercises and techniques to
promote friendships, they work together to adopt a common focus so that team
members see good reasons to work with one another.
Myth:
Team members must subordinate their self-interests for the good of
the team.
Truth:
Responsible team members retain their personal power. They find a way to
align their self-interests with the team assignment, knowing that “going along”
without passion or commitment can take the team to where no member wants
to go.
—more—
www.partnerwerks.com

Myth:
Team members must choose or compromise between getting the job done
and treating one another humanely.
Truth:
The best teams believe that the task can get done and that team members can
have an extraordinary experience.
Myth:
Teambuilding means taking time away from “real work” at offsite events.
Truth:
Teambuilding happens in the course of work.
Myth:
A team that starts on the right track stays on the right track.
Truth:
A number of events can occur during the life of a team to break the team’s
healthy dynamics. To stay “built,” team members should pinpoint problems
as they arise and address them immediately.
For more information, contact Patti Danos at (312) 335-1464 or pattidanos@aol.com.
www.partnerwerks.com
©2001 Christopher M. Avery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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