I once had a boss who referred to his team as “FTE” (full time equivalents). Whenever he said, that I felt reduced to a number, and nothing more. He standard response to meeting requests was, “I’d love to meet though I have some FTE’s who have some questions.” When prompted on his team size, he response was, “Well, I have 9.32 FTE’s this year.” Really? Not feeling very empowered by that. I wondered whether I one of his 1.0 or less? Was I the “.32?” Worrisome indeed.
Then, as a trainer – I noticed a lot of leaders refer to their team members as “Direct Reports”. Great, they “report” to you on some org chart, and somehow this means you have people reporting directly to you. I get it! I still hear the words “subservient staff member under my authority” i.e. you are my property at work. I don’t hear a lot of freedom or individuality here. Worse, some leaders simply refer to their teams as “My DR’s”.
Calling your staff your “team members” is nice and fairly neutral. I don’t hear power over messages nor an acute sense of one-sided “I’m the leader, you shut up and do what I say” as I heard in Direct Reports.
On a recent client visit, I spoke to a senior leader who referred to his team as “talents”. How refreshing! He explained he currently had a team of 5 talents and was recruiting a new Accounting talent next year. I must admit, I liked this. When I hear talent, I hear I value you, you bring value, you are a person, you count, you are not above or below me, no power struggles, just people and just benevolent good leadership.
So, next time you describe your staff, how about calling them Talents or Team Members instead of reducing them to a numeric form. Share your comments and thoughts on this topic. How do you describe the team that helps you reveal the talent making you successful?