When it comes to leading a team, it can feel daunting to manage that balance between us and me. However, once this balance is found, it can lead to incredible results for both professional output and team morale.
The vast majority of us have been sat in a job interview and asked: Do you prefer to work alone or in a team?
However, this is a question without a straightforward answer. It isn’t just a case of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. It isn’t a case of whether you play well with others or not. The human mind varies from day to day and many people would answer differently depending on when you ask them.
So, why exactly do we often crave to work in a team?
Throughout human history, we have become wired to work in teams. Over time, evolution has taught us that the key to survival is working with others. Much more than this, working in a group environment is often mentally freeing, allowing people to motivate, support and elevate each other.
In his book, Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion, and Pride, David DeSteno reveals that being a cog within a team often results in increased perseverance. The Boston North-eastern University Professor of Psychology also commented on a study by Geoffrey Cohen and Gregory Walton from Stanford which looked at student perseverance in teams versus alone.
DeSteno said: “Knowing they were part of something – having a goal that they knew was shared by a group and to which they could contribute and be valued – pushed people to work hard and resist immediate pleasures.”
Progress is often best found when talented individuals come together as one within a functioning team. For example, an idea from one person will often remain that same idea. An idea from one person pitched to a team often evolves and improves through debate, shared ideas, and collective minds.
So, what about the potential problems with teams?
Despite this emphasis on teamwork in the vast majority of workplaces, it is often the individuals who are rewarded with gifts, raises, promotions and schemes.
Some may argue that these rewards are handed out based fairly on who contributed the most, this ignoring those who contributed little. However, it can also be argued that individual awards are subjective and can negatively impact the team as a unit.
Simply put, if one employee believes that they work harder than another but see their colleague being rewarded, they will be less inclined to work hard in future. This is often referred to as the equity theory.
In Bad Apples: Identify, Prevent & Manage Negative Behavior at Work, Adrian Furnham and John Taylor claimed: “Equity theory is concerned with outcomes and inputs as they are perceived by the people involved, not as they actually are.”
The idea is that the greater the inequity is deemed by a person, the more they will try to restore balance. The way in which they achieve this can differ from person to person. However, if they see someone who works less being rewarded, they may put less effort in, take more leave or even commit fraud.
The role of the leader
One of the prime jobs of a leader is to always treat your team fairly, focusing on the ‘we’ rather than the individuals.
People like to be recognised in different ways, but one truth remains: everyone wants to feel valued when they put in a lot of hard work. That is only fair. As such, it is often the simple gestures that make the biggest impacts. For example, a thank you card, a phone call, a team outing – things that can be enjoyed collectively and individually.
As the leader, you must find out exactly how your team members like to be recognised and celebrated. Your choices should bring the team together rather than turning them into a group of individuals. A happy team is an effective team.