How to Transit From Lone Wolf to Team Player

Do you classify as a lone wolf or a team player?

Unlike many other articles I have seen, this article is not meant to be judgemental. It is fine if you are a lone wolf and you have opted for the business model as a solopreneur. But this article serves to help you if you want to transit to building up a bigger enterprise. I’ve also worked with people who are also only team players and feel immense discomfort if they were to work alone. So, I think the transition might be different there, and if there is sufficient interest, I will write about it subsequently.

A lone wolf isn’t just one who likes to be alone. They trust themselves because they probably have a high degree of self-awareness. When working with yourself there is no risk of miscommunication. You know your capabilities, strengths and talents. You can invest in what you already do well, and do things that matter most to you. In fact your priorities and targets are already known and there is no need to debate what is a priority, let alone explain this to anyone. To transit to team player mode, you need to cross a few bridges. You don’t know people, their strengths and capacities, and if you can trust them. But if you don’t get started, you won’t know a thing!

I’ll have to admit that I was holed up in lone wolf activity for a long time even in a business. Teaming for me was mostly an unknown until I found myself learning about responsibilities through the Army. I started by first watching other leaders and observing the effect they had on others. Later on, with the good fortune of being part of strong teams within my national service units (where most people don’t want to be there but have to, and don’t really care what rank or degree you carry), I started to have a clearer idea about my own ideas about teaming. I can say it enabled me to improve my leadership skills.

Photo: Me receiving the 3rd Division NSman of the Year award in 2017 from BG Alfred Fox

There is a lot of evidence out there to show that teams are ultimately more powerful to scale your business and your operations. Using a simple analogy, weightlifting, an individual working out for let’s say, an hour, can carry so much weight. But the individual’s ability to carry that same amount of weight in the next hour and the one after that is going to diminish logically speaking. As a team, you could lift more given a range of time, and the total volume of weight carried is likely to be higher because you are utilizing more resources and have greater capacity. This is true, whether or not the next person carrying the load can only carry 20% of what you carried! If you use this maximum load factor as a concept in your business scaling, then you know that it doesn’t matter how much an individual can lift, it matters more how the entire team is able to lift in a manner that maximizes capacity efficiently.

As a lone wolf, I learned only to become comfortable with my own efficiencies. Yet this is important because if you have no efficiencies, then there’s no value you can bring to the team.

Here are five key mindsets I think will be useful in moving you from being our lone wolf into being a team player.

#1 – Trust

We know from the studies in psychological safety, that trust is essential in establishing a powerful team and to build effective leadership. This topic would be an entire article in and of itself, so be sure to bookmark this blog and subscribe. I’d like you to first understand that trust is buildable, it’s not a black box, and it’s definitely not something that you can build overnight. It does take self disclosure, and it does take a heck of a lot of listening. If you truly want to establish another person’s level of trust and listening is not hearing. It encompasses some powerful elements highlighted in the book, The Trusted Advisor. I found a great primer on it, which you can watch here.

#2 – The capacity to admit mistakes.

I remember when I was first taking a leadership position in the armed forces, I had a schedule that was so packed (even though we were only involved for a couple of weeks) and was involved in a string of planning meetings. I had to trust that my team was doing what they needed to do on the back end.

Unfortunately, during that period of time, it was a difficult time for me personally. So trying to stay on top of things was hard. Fortunately, I had someone who would watch my back and take over me when I was feeling fatigued in spite of being understaffed. Of course a challenging moment for myself and the team.

On hindsight, we had no real clue what had to be done. We were just storming and finding things out as we moved along. Most importantly, being new to the appointment, it was really just shooting in the dark for me, and I didn’t really set clear expectations then.

All that being said, the team did a commendable communication job. We were very clear about pointing out things that were missing so that we would get feedback quickly and move forward with better clarity along the way.

#3 – The ability to step out of judgment and evaluation.

When people dislike their managers or their leaders, it’s because those leaders are not listening. Their team members have ideas, they’ve got methods, and they’ve got different strategies to execute on a direction that their leaders probably would want. But if you’re a leader and you’re not listening to them, then the question is, what’s the point of them raising this to you in the first place?

It is crucial that are heard, and you can demonstrate this by avoiding judgment-making and evaluation. A good NLP strategy for this is known as the Disney Strategy. Walt Disney was known to utilize a creativity strategy, by enabling the dreamer state first. Similar to many brainstorming methods, you allow ideas to surface without judgement so that you kill ideas before they are fleshed out. After that, the Realist is then responsible for transforming those dreams into possibility. To illustrate, an idea like getting a new business off the ground using a certain new approach requires some methods of operations, which the Realist constructs, to be in place. Once this possibility is fleshed out, the Critic takes a look at it to provide feedback. The Critic therefore raises more problems, which in turn is shipped over to the Dreamer to solve by coming up with better ideas and innovate around them. Once this is complete, the Actor is the one to takes action to experience things in the real world before real world feedback is taken into consideration.

By being able to adopt different perceptual positions, you’re able to think forward and backward in time, inside and outside of each individual, in order to identify causes and consequences of every single action. This is not an easy thing to do. We tend to see from our own perspectives and hold on to our facts. But the truth is we don’t see everything at once, and with more perspectives, the team can see far more, if we are willing to provide space to that idea.

#4 – Being clear about objectives and priorities.

I mentioned this earlier on. I think it’s crucial to let everybody understand what your key priorities and objectives are, because they will be able to focus their efforts and their thinking. Even though “ideas” are for free, the amount of energy required to generate them should not be wasted. Again, if you, as a leader are not clear on your priorities and objectives, it would be imperative to get clear on these goals as soon as you can.

#5 – Build a bridge toward competency of team leadership.

There was no time in recorded history where a baby came out of the womb, and was able to direct teams instantly. In fact, I don’t know anyone who’s really naturally talented at this, because it also depends on the context in which you’re in, and on the people who are around you. These things may have fallen in place for you but to develop team leadership, learning it must be intentional.

For instance, I am deliberately seeking out mentors and asking them powerful questions, because I know how to ask powerful questions, and I have a pool of mentors to approach.

You may need to create a study plan to learn about leaders and teams. Build yourself up over time and experiment with different approaches whenever you’re working in a team. You will have the opportunity to establish core ways of working and allow the team to understand how better to work with one another.

If you have the opportunity to do so, organize a simulation with your team. This way, the team can reflect upon the outcome they received, and devise ways to close the gap toward those outcomes. I have a series of different team simulations where groups of people interact to achieve a goal and to solve a series of problems. As a leadership consultant I always see teams amused and enlightened from learning to observe their these patterns of behavior through the decisions that they make. Leaders of these teams often take away many insights that are directly applicable to the workplace environment.

This is a very big topic, if you want to get updates on the ideas that I have about business communication, mental wellness, and so on. Please remember to bookmark my blog, and to subscribe to notifications.

In conclusion, if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go together. This poignant African proverb tells us how it is tells us how important it is to work within a team if we want to have sustainable growth and direction. After all, just sprinting in small chunks doesn’t necessarily help you to win the marathon. But with the right team, you will be able to do so if you plan it right. If you have any queries or comments about teaming, please post them down below. I’d like to hear your opinions and your comments about teaming. And if your corporation or organization like to find out even more about my executive and team leadership coaching programs, arrange for a discovery call with me!

If you like what I’m writing, please leave me a comment on what impacted you most!

See also  Influence in Leadership: Mastering Persuasion Power

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