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My Work or Team Work:  Which One Should We Focus On?
By Scott Morrell

The Answer is Both! 

You are hired to do a job; you are paid to show results. And yet we are told over and over “you must be able to work on a team.” So which is it? Am I still to focus on my work or the team’s work? When we focus on My Work we experience positive outcomes such as: freedom, uniqueness, autonomy and self-determinism. When we focus on The Team’s Work we experience positive outcomes such as: common direction, team support, mutual outcomes and synergy.

However, if we only focus on My Work or only on Team Work, we compromise performance in a leader, team or an entire organization. When we recognize attending to both is essential and is supplemental to “either/or” thinking, we experience faster results, more sustainable performance and cultivate the entire organization. Therefore, we ought to teach our stakeholders to focus on My Work AND Team Work for the sustainable results sought.

    An Actionable Road Map

    Consider that there is an active energy system (like gravity), acting upon us at all times, constantly pushing and pulling us between these valuable tension (i.e. My Work or Team Work).  These polarities are unavoidable, indestructible and unsolvable.  How then shall we make sense of this reality?

    Most people are visual learners.  Graphically seeing the polarities with their upside and downsides is a good start.  However, identifying measurable Action Steps and Early Warning Signs, and assessing the performance of the polarities over time are vital.

    I recommend organizations start with measuring (empirically) how well they are presently leveraging each polarity of importance. Quick assessment results allow leaders and teams to see, with multiple stakeholder input, how well the organization is performing on each pole.


    Take Action

    In order to experience both upsides (e.g. the value of both My Work and Team Work), action steps should be created to define SMART goals: who? what? where? and when? These accountability measures help leaders, teams or an entire organization to mobilize the behaviors needed to focus on that pole. When living in upsides of both poles at the same time a greater purpose is achieved. In other words, if we maximize measurable behaviors in My Work AND Team Work the organization will outperform organizations that only emphasis one pole over time. 



    Action Steps for My Work

    1.  I create a “to do” list for tomorrow’s tasks before I leave home today.

    2.  I have a 30, 60, 90 days plan of deliverables expected of me to achieve.

    3.  I set the 15th of each month aside for my career planning and/or continuing education.

    Action Steps for Team Work

    1.  We have established agendas for our meetings and track our progress.

    2.  We ensure each member of the team reports on progress related to team associated objectives at

         each meeting.

    3.  We have established roles, responsibilities and timelines for each member associated with a project.

    Warning Signs

    How would we know if one pole becomes more emphasized at the neglect of the other pole? Early warning signs can point to the imbalance; they diagnose where attention is needed.  Early warning signs are also measurable things we can count for the purpose of informing the leader, team or organization they are trending downward on one pole.



    Early Warning Signs: My Work Outcomes

    1.  I put off attending team meetings to focus on my work.

    2.  I miss deadlines associated with my role, responsibility and agreed upon timelines.

    3.  I hear that I send mixed messages to the team about my work.


    Early Warning Signs: Team Work Outcomes 

    1.  Team members cannot trace the work they are doing back to a relationship to their unique abilities

         and/or roles.

    2.  If a team member complains they are carrying more water than other members of the team.

    3.  Deadlines are missed repeatedly.

    There is No Mystery:  A Five Step Process

    A 5-Step Process allows an organization to fully diagnose and prescribe behaviors desired to achieve a competitive advantage and/or effective leadership.

    1.  SEEING - See an individual, team or organization and their Polarities more completely

    2.  MAPPING - Create quality and/or assessment ready Polarity Maps

    3.  ASSESSING - Assess how well key Polarities are being leveraged

    4.  LEARNING –  Make meaning of assessment results from diverse stakeholder perspectives

    5.  LEVERAGING – Achieve the greater purpose of each Polarity

    Stone Arch Organization Development has an innovative tool, Polarity Assessment for Continuity and Transformation (PACT) ™, available to help with mapping your My Work and Team Work realities.