While reading a book on leadership, I came across an interesting point made by the author regarding the value of surrounding ourselves with people who are committed to helping us succeed.
Of course, it’s important to know that a two-way street exists here. That is, before we can expect others to provide guidance and assistance, we must be prepared to do our part as well.
The comment that I read went something like this …
“Having the strength and knowledge to do things alone is a myth.”
Many years ago, when teaching an MBA face-to-face course here in San Antonio, I encountered one student who declared the following: “Dr. Flores, I work best alone, so I don’t want to be assigned to a team.”
My first reaction was to honor this student’s request and allow her to work alone. However, after thinking about the situation for a few minutes, I reminded myself that this was a group project, and working solo ran counter to the requirements.
I said, “Martha, I understand you like to work on your own, but the project requirements state that all students must participate as team members.”
Martha was far from happy with my decision, and I expected some conflict with this team throughout the course. To my surprise, however, Martha stepped into the team, and they successfully completed the work.
In fact, Martha noted the following to me at the end of the semester: “Dr. Flores, I still prefer to work alone, but I realized the value of having other perspectives when tackling challenging work.”
That’s it! The fact is today’s work is often far too complex for one person to perform.
Further, there’s the important issue of sustainability. An individual might be able to meet the expectations of a tough project once or twice, but eventually burnout will occur, and that person’s pace will decrease, eventually coming to a standstill.
Isolation is Self-Limiting
For more than a decade, I had the same perspective as Martha. I felt confident I could do the work completely alone. I also thought other people would actually slow me down because they would fall short of meeting the expectations in a timely manner.
This is a self-limiting belief.
The fact is other people are willing to help a person and organization succeed if they have a clear idea of the vision and understand the part they can play to make it a reality. In other words, they will do their part, and even more, when they believe their contributions are respected and valued.
Imagine a picture where a group of people are working continuously and harmoniously to meet the company’s goals. Performance is measured at the team level, and not on individual performance. The team works as one to complete the challenge ahead.
Working Alone = Success = NOPE
Great leaders know that a critical component to success is seeking guidance and feedback from others. They know isolated thinking is a recipe for failure.
Jeff Bezos did not create the Amazon empire alone.
Sara Blakely sought guidance and feedback when launching Spanx.
Perhaps most important, though, the most influential leaders are eager to work with people who are willing to challenge them.
The best and most successful decisions are often on the other side of these challenges.