My office compatriots always talk about the Netflix show they binge-watched, the latest episode of a TV series, the recent movie they went to, or the news. Not me. I’m all about watching sports. In fact, because I have no self-control, I’ve even blocked my own TV from tuning into the news channels.
But, while I watch sports, I also channel surf. A lot. Maybe it’s “a guy thing”. On Saturdays when there are several football games on at one time, I constantly flip between them. Of course, my wife says, “You are crazy, and how do you even understand what is going on in any one particular game?”
One day, it struck me out of the blue, like a bolt of lightning, that when I watch individual sports, for instance, golf, tennis, track and field, the Tour de France, and even marathon races, I don’t channel surf. So, of course, I ask myself: Why? Why do I channel surf during team sports, but I’m glued to one station during individual sports? Why am I more enthralled with the individual effort rather than the team effort?
I’m not a psychologist, but the answer might simply be that I love the solitude of the individual effort. The reliance on your own skills, fortitude, mental stamina, to achieve heroic athletic feats.
Like many of my thoughts, I always bring it back to business. What does my passion for individual sports say about my approach to business? Am I a terrible team player? Do I actually think I know more as an individual than the team as a whole? Would I rather succeed or fail on my own, than as part of a team?
How I watch sports is quite consistent with my career and personality. Let me explain.
I hate being held back by company inertia, rules and regulations, and painfully slow decision-making processes of institutions. I enjoy pushing the envelope to create new and unique opportunities and challenging the status quo. I believe it’s better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission. I am the one who actually enjoys the thrill of the chase, and the opportunity to grow my own business. Being part of a team, a group, committee or institution just slows everything down. Businesses need to fail fast, learn from their failures, and move on. I admit, along the way I have created havoc, broken things, and caused tension. The downside of it all.
My personality is even reflected in how I arrived at my current position. I finally had to follow my entrepreneurial, individual (some may say, selfish), personality and start my own law firm. I’m the one in charge of marketing, business development, office administration, finance, and of course getting the work done. I set the strategies, tactics, and rules. I take the risks, reap the rewards, and suffer the failures.
There is an adage that if you have a whole team setting the direction, while you might get consensus, you also get a watered-down direction.
Also, no great achievements were ever made on the edges (i.e., consensus); they were made when people took great leaps and risks to achieve something nobody else believed could be achieved. Finally, it’s better to take the risk and forge ahead in a unique way than pursue a direction that is simply the average of many people’s ideas.
But make no mistake, while I absolutely enjoy this, there are still limits to what I can accomplish as an individual. I don’t have the resources of a large law firm to serve every legal issue a client might have. So, I have to turn away work in some cases. I don’t have complete expertise in IT or marketing that likely exists in a larger organization, so I have to pay other professionals to provide this assistance. And as the organization grows, teamwork is required. One person alone cannot be the sales, finance, operations, marketing, HR, and accounting departments. Importantly, the rugged individualist needs skills to motivate employees, develop an entrepreneurial spirit within an organization, and create passion for a product or process or service.
In reality, all great companies have both the fearless individualist and the team player. The fearless individual who champions a singular cause who thinks about issues in new and creative ways. A person who believes the status quo is unacceptable. A person who does not accept necessarily what an entrenched organization believe to be true just because that is the way it has always been done. And the team player who likes working in groups with other people to accomplish the corporate goal. The person who can motivate others to achieve goals they did not think were attainable. Each of these traits has unique and special places in a business, and even in our communities. The real key is understanding who you are, what your role is, and how you fit into the different environments in which you interact.
What are you? The consummate team player, or the rugged individualist? Tell me about your role and what you think is the better personality characteristic, and why.