Teamwork makes the dream work: Why individuality is the secret to team collaboration

Is there actually such thing as too much teamwork? More specifically, what happens when teams are full of extroverts with similar traits and critical thinking methods? This combination probably produces a team without the ability to change and adapt to new challenges. On the contrary, teams full of individuals with unique personalities are able to change course and adapt to methods necessary for success. It’s the individuals who make the team work.

As an organization, it’s important to promote individuality within teams. In the article, The Secret to Team Collaboration: Individuality, contributor John Baldoni discusses the “challenge for leaders to balance individual needs with team directives.” Frequently, leaders turn to collectivism, or “group think” when making a decision; however, this common error causes disengagement because teams lack the individuality necessary for collaboration. In fact, Baldoni points out that “Collaborators are similarly focused on purpose but they arrive at their goals by incorporating variable points of view”; employees are engaged with one another because they are solution oriented as a team.

Collaboration leads to employee engagement, and employee engagement drives business success. The following four concepts enhance individual collaboration within teams:

  1. Affirm the Purpose: Leaders affirm the team’s purpose by communicating how contributions attribute to the organization’s overall success.
  2. Encourage individualism: Avoid ‘group think’, which shuts out alternative view points, and encourage individual contributions in teams by recognizing employees for behavior that drives success.
  3. Focus on team: Foster a corporate culture where individuals are recognized for going above and beyond to contribute to the team’s success. When individuals are encouraged to coordinate and cooperate with one another, it promotes employee engagement because they hold each other accountable to drive results.
  4. Reflect, together: Processes can and should always be evaluated and improved for efficiencies. Ask open-ended questions to team members and solicit feedback with real-time communication; it will only make you better.

Baldoni concludes that “teamwork is essential to getting things done and to do it effectively managers need to draw upon the talents of individuals who have a stake in the outcome.” Managers need to identify individual talents within teams and use timely and specific recognition to positively reinforce how these talents will collaborate to drive results.

As professionals, we tend to emphasize the importance of teamwork, but overlook the essential fundamentals required to solve a problem: it’s the individuals that contribute value to the team. What do you think is the most important aspect of individual collaboration within teams? 

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