The Balancing Act: 7 Ways to be an Individual in a Team Atmosphere

matches in a line with one individual

The Argument for Individuality

We all know the influence of a cohesive team atmosphere. Two heads are almost always better than one. But, what really makes a team amazing is the individuals that make up said team.

When everyone in a group thinks, acts, and speaks the same way, you are very rarely going to have a creative or original solution to the problem at hand. In order to combat this “group think,” here are seven practical tips that you can implement today either as a leader or a follower on your team.

OWN your space

The days of identical cubicles and offices are *thankfully* behind us! Take the time to make your space YOURS – After all, you are the one that has to sit there and be productive for at least eight hours a day! Here are some variations of desk spaces in our office:

Ellen's Desk with labels

Carisa's desk with labels

Matthew's desk with labels

Brian's desk with labels

Jenny's desk with labels

Prioritize your time

One of the best parts of a team-centric office is collaboration. A pitfall, however, is that for every meeting or discussion, someone inevitably says, “Wait, let me ask…” or “We should definitely include…”

Before you know it, your entire team is in on almost every single meeting….and nothing ever seems to get done!

For your next meeting, really think about who should be contributing for the topics being discussed, and only include the people needed. Be sure to take the time to explain to your whole team your shifted mindset to meetings. Also, convey that this new system is not to purposefully leave people out, but rather to value their time, resources, and bandwidth for the day.

Communicate with the team

Speaking of explanation, another key way to honor your coworkers is in communication. Here are some key points to keep in mind when communicating anywhere, but especially in the office:

  • No one is a mind reader. If you don’t explicitly share your thought directly with someone, you cannot expect for them to know or act on the information.
  • Everyone communicates differently, and you can’t expect your coworkers to speak your communication language. Instead, take the time to be proactive and learn their different communication styles. Explain to them that you would like to be able to communicate better with them, and ask them how they recommend doing that. In turn, that gives you the opportunity to share with them what your style is.

Recognize & praise other individuality

A team effort should always be recognized. But the individual accomplishments should also be celebrated! A great way to do this without making the introvert feel “put on the spot” is to have a centralized location in your office where you can give direct shout-outs for a job well done.

We practice this by having a whiteboard wall in our break room where we can celebrate team wins and also let someone know when we noticed them do something awesome for a fellow team member or a clients.

Give everyone a voice

Going back to communication, not everyone in the room automatically feels comfortable or confident  to speak in a group setting. This does not mean that they are not capable of speaking up or that they should be allowed to continue to just sit in meetings while giving nothing of value to the discussion at hand.

Start to help the quieter ones in the room use their voice by starting meetings with everyone speaking. It could be answering a fun icebreaker question, saying something they are working on for the day, etc. Once you break that barrier, it makes it a thousand times easier for them to do it again in the future.

Respectfully disagree

One of the great things about being an individual means that you don’t have to agree with what everyone else thinks all the time.

Now, this does not give someone the right to always be opposite of the group in a negative way just for the sake of being difficult.

What it does allow is the opportunity for coworkers to challenge each other to be better by thinking about a situation through someone else’s lens. 99.99% of the time, there is nothing wrong with saying “I respectfully disagree, and here’s why…” if it means you are going to help propel the team forward to success.

Recognize your expertise

There is something to be said for pushing your boundaries, learning new tasks, and going out of your comfort zone. But one of the most positive byproducts of a team atmosphere is that you can be really amazing at your strengths and allow your team members to be really amazing in theirs.

If you are speaking with a client and they ask you for your opinion in an area that you are not as confident in (yet) as your coworker, let the expert speak! For example, if a client starts asking me about making a styling change to their site, I immediately bring Mike, our web developer, into the conversation.

Why?

Because I know what Mike has to say on this topic is exponentially more valuable to the client than me. And vice versa if the client asked Mike about marketing strategy.

By celebrating the individual personalities, expertise, and knowledge of your team, you will…
  1. Create an invaluable and irreplaceable experience for your clients
  2. Reach a new level of creativity
  3. Solve problems in the most efficient and effective way
  4. Create a culture worth being a part of.