We have all heard the saying that there is no “I” in team and while that may be true, there is no team without individuals. I have heard many managers and supervisors preach to their teams that the individual is not what is important, that it is all about the team, that personal agenda’s need to be put aside and the goals of the team need to be first priority. While I do agree that the team’s goals are what are important and that those goals must be a priority, I disagree with the mentality that the individual doesn’t matter, because without the individual the team doesn’t exist.
One of the things that many managers do not have is empathy and the ability to see past the business of running a team. While it would be great if people came to work and left all of their personal baggage at the door, it’s not a realistic expectation. Those people that come to work are human beings with a life outside of work; they have marriages that are in trouble, parents with cancer, kids on drugs, problems making their mortgage, cars that need to be repaired… You get the picture. To expect people to just turn all that off is unrealistic. So that being said, a good manager needs to understand this and needs to have the ability of massaging those various personalities. A good manager is not just leading the team in the business at hand, but also needs to be able to listen to the problems of the individuals under them.
I have found that a manager that is paying attention can see when there is a problem with someone on their team, and a good manager will take that person aside and ask them what the problem is, and if you are a manager that shows empathy you will be surprised at how open those under you will be, and sometime all you have to do is listen for a minute and give them a little encouragement and that alone can make all the difference in the world. So remember while you may want your team to be one smooth operating machine, that machine is made of parts and when one of those parts is not operating at full capacity it is up to you to find out why.
Remember also that these individuals all have different skill sets and strengths and the most functional team is run by a leader that understands this and that seeks to expose those individual strengths and uses them to make the team stronger as a whole. A good leader will develop an understanding of each team member’s skill and will learn how they best communicate, how their thought processes work and what motivates them as an individual. Once you have figured this out and you understand how each part of the machine works best, then you will have a machine that is smooth running and effective. Failure to understand this will create a dysfunctional team with subpar results. So be sure that you get to know the individuals that make up your team, and that you understand what makes them tick, what motivates them, and what makes them an effective part of the team.