To be truly effective, you must work as a team. There will be many times throughout your career when you will run into another manager or employee that refuses to work as a unit and possibly even feels they don’t need anyone’s help. Now, do some people work better solo? Yes, but that is not what I am discussing here. That would be in a previous post about knowing your team because if someone does work better alone, you should let them because that is what is most beneficial for the team. If someone refuses to work with anyone else just because their pride and ego is in the way, that’s what you want to look out for; they will bring the team down with their negativity. I will discuss why it is important to work as a team and the challenges you will face in dealing with someone that does not work as a team.
Knowing your Strengths and Weaknesses
You do not know everything nor can you do everything, even as a leader this is impossible, so, you must work together with your strengths to get the job done. Knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses is important so you know who to match up to get the best results. Say you have someone who is very technical and someone who better with the people aspect of the operation. They would actually make a great team because they would complement each other’s weaknesses. If you have two subordinate managers working together that both have weak people skills but are very technical strong in the operation, sure they know how the operation works, but they wouldn’t know how to get their employees to work for them. The same goes for the opposite, the employees would love their management but the right moves wouldn’t be made and the operation would fail. You would not want to combine two strong willed stubborn managers together because they may have two different ways to do the same thing and would not get along. When I think of my staffing, I try to have a dichotomy of leadership, one strong technical manager who knows the operation up and down, and one who is great with people to engage the employees. This has shown me success thus far and I feel is a great way to look at team building. You will also get employees that are well rounded either way and honestly are the easiest to move around, and I would say, should be your go to person to cover other work areas when people are off, float around where help is needed, and just your all around Swiss Army knife of the operation.
“You’re only as fast as your slowest person”
I used to hear this all the time in the Army and it obviously stuck with me. It is true though. When I hear a manager or employee tell me they are the best and therefore do not have to help out the weak link, this is what I tell them, “You’re only as fast as your slowest person.” I will go into the big picture of the operation and explain to them how, by refusing to help out the team, they are actually hurting the team more and really are not the best because a true leader helps those in need. I remember being a young manager and having this same attitude from time to time, thinking to myself, “Why do I need to help out Joe over there? He doesn’t care about the operation, he makes all the wrong calls, and he’s in this situation because he can’t get right.” Was I wrong with my assessment of Joe? Not necessarily but was my attitude wrong? Yes. He might have made the wrong calls but what did I do to help him make the right ones? Nothing. My manager at the time had that talk with me about sending the help to the area in need for the greater good of the building and it reminded me of what Drill Sergeant Garza told me. I might be the best but if everyone around me is failing, I am failing with them. I took this to heart and would look out for Joe, send him help, and even come to his area, when given the opportunity, and point out where his opportunities were. Instead of simply calling him out, bashing him, and allowing him to bring the team down, I brought him up. If you’re the best of the worst, are you really the best?
Not everyone will be as open to criticism as others and will still refuse to help their peers out. As a leader what do you do? Let’s say you’ve spoken with this individual much like my manager spoke with me, you do your best to send the help despite the individual’s wishes, and still they do not get it. Then what? Well, to be frank, you need to correct the action. Document what happened and have the discussion with them again. If it keeps happening, keep being consistent in documenting them. Eventually two things will happen, either they will shape up or ship out. At the end of the day, you’re the leader and if you have a poison in your team, you either need to cure the poison or get rid of it. It’s a business and the work needs to get done. Don’t lose your job for anyone else.
Teamwork is very important. It should be something that comes natural as humans but not everyone can play nice and that’s when, as a leader, you need to step in and correct them. You may think as you get older and get further up the company ladder that people can take kindergarten lessons, like sharing, working together, and putting things back where they belong, and apply them, you would be wrong. Does it get further and farther between, sure, but the challenges may become harder because you are now dealing with managers and not hourly employees. It’s like they say, “You cannot teach an old dog new tricks.” Some people just aren’t team players and you need to identify them and get them out of your team.