Sometimes despite the best efforts of the team leader, a team will wind up with that one outlier, or the person who prefers to work by himself and not participate in group or team work or activities. This person may be somewhat shy or antisocial, or may simply want to focus on his assigned role and responsibilities. In cases such as this, how far should a team leader be willing to go to ensure that everyone is a fully functioning part of the team?
In determining how to answer this question, it’s important to take a look at the benefits of working as a team. Not only can members share ideas and insights, but there is also true benefit to brainstorming and potentially coming up with concepts that can help advance the project at hand. It also helps when members of a team know what the other members are working on at any given time, in order to avoid redundancy and overlap, as well as to offer assistance if needed.
So what to do about the lone wolf who doesn’t want to participate in teamwork? Well, presumably that team member has important skills and knowledge that make him integral to the team. Assuming that this is the case, it’s critical for the team leader to come up with a way to work with this person, given their value to the success of the project.
To begin, the team leader should sit down with this employee to figure out what the issue is. Perhaps he feels that he can do his work on his own and requires no input, and has nothing to add to what others are working on? Perhaps he simply prefers to work alone at his own pace, and focus on the task at hand? Whatever the reason, the team member should be spoken to as early on in the project as possible, so that a way forward can be figured out at the earliest juncture.
Once the team member’s objections have been brought out into the open, the team leader should determine how to best handle the situation. It can be important to make sure that everyone on a team is treated the same, as resentment can build if one member is given special concessions, such as not having to attend meetings required for others. And yet, perhaps it’s also true that too much time together as a team can hinder the ability of members to focus on their work, and some separation might be a positive thing.
The optimal leadership strategy is likely to be one that makes certain aspects of working as a team mandatory, while others are optional. Give employees the option to work separately in cubicles rather than all in one conference room; other team members may appreciate having the ability to focus on their work in quiet environment as well. But brainstorming sessions and similar activities should require attendance by all members of the team, as long as these meetings are not too frequent. If a team leader realizes that his group is playing “buzzword bingo” instead of paying attention in yet another meeting……this is a sure sign that the number of meetings should be ratcheted down, for the sanity of all involved.