Working Alone Versus Working With Others

“I want to do it myself!” It’s a cry parents are all too familiar with.  Sometimes it is hard to let a child do it alone.  Other times parents know that it is exactly what is necessary.  There is a progression that occurs from childhood to adulthood that leads to the independence of the child.

Somewhere along the way children are also told to be the best they can be.  It is then that they learn how to be competitive with others.  Even when they work in teams there is an emphasis on becoming a “star performer”.

One of my clients was a manager.  He noticed that the other managers would spend a lot of time chatting with each other.  He considered this a waste of time.  He told me he wanted to do his best work and that talking interfered with his work.  He was sure he would be rewarded for his efforts.  It frustrated him that the very managers he thought were time wasters were actually promoted and he was not.

A lot of work gets done in an informal setting where two or more people share ideas.  In a demonstration of how much combined wisdom there is in a team I have asked individuals to make a list of the states in the United States without looking them up.  After about five minutes I ask them to put the first list away.

They then pair up to make a second list together.  Invariably the list made by the two together has more than the combination of the number of states that appears on each of the individual lists.  The interaction energizes those participating and they are able to create even more together.  In this case one plus one equals more than two.

Whether you are a business owner, a manager, a person in transition or a stay at home parent, having some connections to individuals who can help you is very beneficial.

A business owner might call these connections strategic partnerships.  These are people who have an interest in a similar market(s) and find it beneficial to share information and leads with each other.

For a manager or person looking for work a strategic partner would be someone who is wired into the job market and can find job opportunities for someone or supply a candidate for an open position.

Parents can foster a connection with friends who can help them find the best cleaners, restaurants, toys, or computer service company. The responsibility of each person is to help the other.

There is only so much that one person can know and/or do by him/herself.   Whether the focus is to increase business or transition into a new job, finding other like-minded people is both fun and worthwhile.  The spark of different ideas generates energy, enthusiasm, and innovation.

So why do some constantly reject the notion of asking for help?  Is it a strongly held belief that their businesses must be totally their own?  They can only feel successful if they have done it “all by themselves.”  Unfortunately no one can be successful trying to do everything by him/herself. That is a recipe for burnout.

Marcy decided as a child that she wanted to be an engineer like her father.  Every time she asked her father questions about engineering he found some reason why he could not help her.  She soon learned that if she really wanted to be an engineer she would have to get there by herself.

Marcy graduated engineering school in the top of her class.  To this day she continues to work by herself rather than to ask others to collaborate with her.

Is this way of being still serving Marcy?  She complains that she has trouble getting her projects approved even though she knows they are really good.  Perhaps she needs some strategic partners within her company to help her.  Can anyone succeed today without the help of others?

There is a delicate balance between independence and working with others.  Some of us are really good at collaborating and prefer it to working alone.  Others find partnering a challenge and prefer to work independently.  Where is your comfort zone? How do you find ways to insure independence and interdependence as balanced aspects of your life?

Take Action

1.   Look at your way of working.  Make a list of your activities and write the word “alone” or “collaborative’ beside each as appropriate.

2.   Are you alone most of the time? Where would it be beneficial to work with someone else? Find a person or people to work with this week and make collaboration with them a regular part of your work- week.

3.   Are you always with others when you work?  Have you formed a strategic partnership or a casual relationship?  Strive to make some of these relationships more meaningful and leave some space in your day for quiet time to contemplate.

4.   Make a spreadsheet of the people in your life that can help you and your customers/clients/friends.  I have a chart for this purpose called the Team 100.  If you would like a copy send me an email at Put Team 100 as the subject.


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