Why we should stop saying ‘my team’

Ditch the first-person singular pronouns in favor of ‘we,’ ‘us’ and ‘our’ to promote unity of purpose and drive collaboration.

Something has been bugging me lately: the way people talk about their work teams.

Here’s what I hear from some people in our industry:

“I asked my team to look at it. We’ll have an answer to you shortly.”

“My team is made up of social media strategists and community managers.”

“I’m getting my team together for a brainstorm later today.”

What is consistent about all these statements? The use of the word: “my.”

My team.

Me.

I.

Why is that a big deal? Because we’re talking about a team, not a person, and once you start saying “my team” it makes it about you—not the team. Instead, notice the difference when the statements include “our”:

“I asked our team to look at it. We’ll have an answer to you shortly.”

“Our team is made up of social media strategists and community managers.”

“Our team is getting together for a brainstorm later today.”

How you talk about your team makes all the difference.

Think about a basketball team. More specifically, listen to any coach after a college basketball game. You hear a lot of “our guys” and “our team.” You rarely hear the coach of a college (or NBA, for that matter) basketball team say “my team.” Why would he? It’s not his team; that would go against every logical meaning of the word team.

A team comprises multiple people working toward a common goal, each doing something to move the team forward.

We’ve all heard the saying: “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team,'” yet people talk about “my team” in the PR world all the time.

Why? Ego.

People use “my,” because they think it’s all about them. Sure, sometimes it slips, and people just say it.

Other times, people say it over and over again. That’s a red flag, an indication that this leader really isn’t a leader and that he/she is certainly not a coach or mentor. Successful coaches and mentors don’t talk in terms of “me,” “my” or “I.” They talk in terms of “us,” “our” and “we.”

Language matters; people pay attention to the words you use.

If you’re in a leadership position, think about the way you talk about and to your team. Do you use the inclusive words “we,” “our” and “us,” or do you use “I,” “my” and “me” too much?

A version of this article first appeared on Communications Conversations.

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