In my previous post, I provided some advice to a person who is concerned that she’s over-powering her team.  I described a variety of approaches to take up a little less of the oxygen in the room.  You can read those tips here.

Even as I wrote that post, one niggling thought was bothering me…does she really want to make more room for her team? Unfortunately, I have met too many people who think that they are better than their teams.  Some think that they are faster (“I just understand things quicker than other people.”); some smarter (“They just don’t get it.”); some more innovative (“Those guys just can’t think outside the box.”). Some people I get to work with legitimately are one or all of those things.

What concerns me is when I hear those and other excuses for dismissive, condescending behavior toward teammates.

If you have ever caught yourself thinking that your team is a waste of your time, you are missing a fundamental truth that diversity of thought strengthens outcomes.  Here are just a few ways that opening up to the value of your teammates will make you more successful.

  1. If you’re the fastest person in the room
    Good for you Flash Gordon. Now have you ever reached your destination, turned around and noticed that no one is there with you? That’s the problem with being the fastest in the room: you are not a good harbinger of reality. Your teammates are a better indication of how your customers, colleagues, and direct reports will respond.  They will help you figure out how to bring others along.  If you’re the fastest person in the room, let your teammates draw the map and set the timetable to get from Point A to Point B.
  2. If you’re the intuitive one
    Intuition is great and often gives us access to ideas and possibilities that we wouldn’t come to more logically. But intuition is not a great justification of investment to write in a business case. “…uhhh, I just have a feeling this will work.” Turn to your more linear teammates to cast a dubious eye on your ideas and to ensure they hold up to scrutiny. Seek help from a more analytical teammate to give form and substance to your stroke of insight.
  3. If you’re the smartest person in the room
    Great, congratulations. Now, here’s the thing; really smart people tend to have really big gaps. I always think of it like a hand of cards.  It’s great to have a whole whack of spades, but if your hand is full of spades, it necessarily lacks hearts, clubs, or diamonds. Revel in your strengths and turn to your teammates for smarts in other domains.
  4. If you’re more innovative than your teammates
    We’ve become infatuated with the idea of innovation, but there are dozens of bad ideas for each good one.  Use your teammates as a reality check to see if your creative ideas have legs.  Is the idea something that your customers will value? Is the market ready or are you ahead of your time?

If you think you’re too good for your team, you are missing important opportunities to make your ideas better.  You’re probably also missing the chance to create real connections with your teammates because there’s nothing more off-putting than someone who thinks they are better than you.  Get over yourself. Time to be a better team player.

Further Reading

Everybody Hurts

Help! I Don’t Like my Teammate

Navigating a Difficult Political Situation

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