ENGAGE SERIES: Collaborate - Individual


Today we're continuing our series on collaboration in regard to how to engage your team, to elicit more productivity. Specifically, today we will be dealing with the individuals under your tender leadership care. Yes, your team is a team, but it's made up on very specific unique individuals.

Empathy begins with understanding life from another person's perspective. “Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It's all through our own individual prisms.”, according to Sterling K. Brown. I like this quote because it's a truth we often ignore. Everyone is going to see things in a slightly different way informed by their unique experiences and their worldview.

The frustration here can be individuals not being productive as you’d like. This is often caused by the assumption that we all want or need the same things. Just as we are unique individuals, that which motivates us is also unique. Whilst there may be some commonality we are not all built the same.

What we should be aiming for is for each and every person to be valued as an individual, respected as an individual and honoured as an individual. If you do this well, then you can build a team made up of high performing individuals.

If not, you get frustrated people who don’t fit the mould and you lose diversity as the team perspective gets narrower and more vanilla, paradoxically increasing risk.

The principle here is that everybody is a unique individual and needs to be treated accordingly.

Every individual has particular needs and aspirations. This may be due to the season in their life, their personality, or just pure and simple how they're wired. Not everyone is driven by the same motivations that you and I have. Assuming all people want to make more money, grow the organisation, or progress in their careers, is just that, an assumption. Some people just want to turn up and do a good job and go home. And that's OK. Others would work harder and faster given a more flexible work environment. Still others may well be motivated due to their season of life and their predisposition to increasing their income. If you know these individual needs, you can create an environment where they can be realised. Flexibility for some, greater opportunity for others. An opportunity to earn more given an agreed outcome, is also a great motivator, but only for some. But know this, you won't know until you ask. So ask. If we treat each individual, as an individual, and don't dumb things down to the lowest common denominator, we get a better team full of motivated individuals.

In our Judeo-Christian tradition humans are created in the image of God and uniquely and individually handcrafted by a loving creator. It is that uniqueness that gives us value as we can contribute uniquely. Western society has been built on this revelation.

In one of my leadership teams I had two people who were diametrically opposed when it came to reporting to me, and how they valued that interaction. One was very relational, big picture, not good with detail, but a wonderful salesperson. Our reporting was a lively and engaging conversation that took place in a casual manner.

The second person had a wonderfully analytical mind and was super focused on details. She insisted on writing a report prior to meeting, so that I would have all the information I needed for when we met. Whilst I did not require that level of detail, I respected her individual strengths and made sure I prepared well for our meetings.

Two very different people with complementary skillsets who wanted to report to me in two different ways. If I chose one style over the other for all team members, then I would be missing something, not only in collaboration, but in the engagement with the individual that lead inevitably to their high performance. They felt valued and listen to and that engendered not only productivity, but high levels of loyalty.

Here's something you can do that's super practical to start on this journey of valuing the individuals in your team. Do a 20-minute walk and talk with each of your team members. There's something about being outside the office in a casual environment, walking side by side, that deepens a conversation. Ask them about themselves, get to converse at a deeper level. What motivates them? What do they like or not like? Where are their work frustrations and what keeps them awake at night? What do they love about what they do? Where are their passions and how can you help unlock their potential? Leaders don't do this, but if you do, I guarantee your team will perform much better. I’ve seen it first hand in so many organisations.

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