It is not enough to be an exceptional individual contributor; you must also work effectively with others. Even super heroes work together just like Batman and Robin.
A key differentiator for professional growth is how well you work with others. We can all think of times where we could have accomplished a task easier alone but still needed to work with others. We can probably also see where there was some benefit to the organization by our working with someone else, like they got to learn from us and from the experience.
I worked with a client who saw himself as the expert at everything he did. He was frustrated by working with teams because it got in the way of doing the real work and no one knew as much as he did. This team stuff slowed the work down and frustrated him. He also thought he should be promoted because he could certainly accomplish the work more effectively than anyone around him.
If only he knew and focused on the 5 key behaviors that would have made him a better team member.
From his perspective, he was forced to work for leaders who were not as competent as he was. From where he sat, his leaders had all kinds of stupid requests and changed their minds regularly. They could not pick a path and stick to it.
He was a great individual contributor but got a complete FAIL for team effectiveness and it was getting in his way. He was not moving forward and others disliked working with him.
He remembered when he liked going to work but that time had long passed. He was frustrated and unhappy and did not know where to turn to fix things other than find a “better” company with “smarter leaders” to work for.
What he missed was HE was the problem.
He would not likely find a company where he could show poor personal skills and be surrounded by great leaders who saw every situation the same way he did.
He could have been much more successful if he had the willingness to learn the 5 key components that impact our ability to work with others effectively. These skills can be learned and practiced. Had he done so, he could have been a stronger contributor and a better leader. These key skills are:
Self awareness – I know my strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and impact on others. I know when to ask for help.
Self management – I manage how I behave considering how it will impact others. I act professionally even when frustrated.
Motivation – I do what is required even if it will not be an immediate benefit to me.
Empathy – I understand others have emotions and I try to respond to what they need to be successful.
Social skills – I build rapport with others to move the project forward to accomplish its goals.
After developing solid technical skills, we are measured on our ability to accomplish tasks with and through others. Our education often stopped with learning how to do the technical aspects of the job without teaching how to work well with others.
Some call these soft skills and discount them because they are “touchy feely.” The research indicates that you must be technically competent and also interpersonally competent to advance in a leadership role.
Perhaps if he had taken the time and effort to build these capabilities within himself, he would have been much more satisfied with his work environment.
How are you relating to others? Are you working on a team that is not as effective as you would like? What are you doing to contribute to the dysfunction? What can you do to improve?
Maureen is the President of Metcalf & Associates, Inc., bringing 23 years of business experience to the table as she helps professionals grow well beyond their own expectations. She is recognized as an effective leader who demonstrates operational skills coupled with the ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth and sustainability. She’s also a member of the thoughtLEADERSteam. Read more of her work on her blog.