Individual work, and Individuals Working Together

 In Perspective

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to far, go together.”

—African Proverb

 

There are two different approaches that lead to desired outcomes: First, an idea may be created and executed by an individual. Second, a group of individuals who combine their efforts and collaborate in executing the idea—more commonly known as teamwork.

Business is ultimately about the bottom line. An idea needs to be executed and produce desired results in order to be deemed successful, whether it is executed individually or by group of individuals working together.

Realizing an idea and working toward a goal in order to achieve desired results, whether as an individual or as a group of individuals working together, has both pros and cons.

Working individually will allow the person to dig deep and really ignite one’s creativity, which allows the individual to reflect personal interests and ideas on a greater scale. It is independent work that leads to better representation of the individual’s perspective, and provides the opportunity to showcase competency and talent. When working independently, individuals often leverage the ability to expedite decision-making, which, in turn, allows for faster implementation.

However, individual work is not without challenges. Working independently may cause an individual to become more subjective and consequently, less receptive to constructive or corrective feedback. As well, they maybe more unwilling to entertain, accept or be open to other’s ideas and viewpoints. It may also cause the individual to feel overwhelmed, as the pressure is solely on them rather than dividing it among a group of people.

Teamwork is effective when all team members share a common mental model of teamwork, grounded in trust (Kirkman et al. 2019). This is not the case in most teamwork settings today. When working in a team, results are uniform across all members, regardless of an individual member’s input and participation.

Teamwork also comes with the intrinsic challenges of overcoming slow decision- making and reducing an individual’s creativity, as a result of too much control.

As well, within a team, individuals can risk creating a dysfunctional work environment where bullying, lack of individual responsibility, over-dependence on others, and unhealthy competition, create barriers to a successful outcome.

In order to mitigate possible pitfalls of team management, leaders should shift their focus from managing “team” output, to managing “individual” outputs of those within the group.

Successful organizations are the ones who manage their business based on individuals working together; not teamwork. This is because when a group of individuals work together—the result and combining of disparate parts from within; an accumulation from each individual effort—and the final product is the work of the collective group.

Working together can have many benefits ingrained in the nature of successfully bringing together different skills, practices, experiences, opinions, disciplines and approaches, which can lead to immunity toward diversion. Ideally, creative problem-solving occurs, and a diversity of thought is promoted in a safe and trust-based environment, to achieve the end result.

Working with others not only benefits the group, but allows the individual to develop their ability beyond just tolerance and avoiding judgment or stereotyping, to recognize, understand, accept and respect, diversity; and by capitalizing on individual differences and understanding that each individual is unique. An effective group maintains a blend of individual identities, and does not dilute or reduce itself into a single-team identity. They are closely familiar with each other’s competencies, talents and abilities, so they place value on this uniqueness, and capitalize on, and leverage each other, to achieve results.

The more an individual is exposed to various personalities, the more likely they will develop an ability to engage with others in their business and personal interests; build and manage expectations; and manage conflicts and improve their communication skills.

Regardless of whether the idea is being executed by one individual or a group of individuals working together, there are five key factors that contribute to the success of the job. Such factors include:

  1. A Common Goal: is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or group of people envisions, and commits to achieve. Having a common goal reduces conflict and makes it easy to align people.
  2. Intention to do: Every action starts with the intention to do or to achieve. In addition, having a solid understanding of the idea and the end-point, is crucial to developing a plan of action.
  3. The knowledge and skills to execute: The learning ability in people to perform a particular task, and do something well.
  4. Integrity: A set of behaviours that give you the feeling of confidence and the trust that everyone in the group will behave in a way that is acceptable by the others.
  5. Discipline/System/Mechanism to work: Discipline is the recipe for success, whether it is individual work or a group of individuals working together. System, are tools which can organize the relationship between all stakeholders and help define the way each organization wants to work. The mechanism to work is not as crucial for an individual, but essential for a group of individuals working together. Policies and procedures are implemented to outline and specify the mechanisms required for people to manage the relationship, and the expectations while they are working together. Establishing clear processes and frameworks to define the work, will avoid challenges and chaos.

Understand Expectations: Individuals within a group must be well aware of others’ expectations, to be able to deliver on any task or responsibility. Thus, understanding of expectations is a critical component of ensuring individual responsibility and delivery toward better cohesiveness and output of individuals within a group.

Testing your understanding and confirming other individuals’ requirements allow you to deliver successful results and mitigate disappointments and frustrations.

Understand Challenges: In a group setting, individuals will be faced with challenges, issues, and varied problems, that will require the individual to overcome them, with or without the support of others. To do this, each individual should be wary and conscious of others on an individual and personal level to successfully overcome challenges.

In the words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning, Keeping together is a progress, Working together is success”. This not only exemplifies the steps in forming a cohesive objective, and working toward it, but it also strongly defines the importance of individualistic identity and the relation of which to achieve common objectives.

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