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July 2024
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Team Building for Lone Rangers

How to work with others effectively.

By Bill Brown, DTM

Group of coworkers at table with laptop

Team building has never been a topic that excites me. Why? Because I like working alone. I like working on my own projects. I am basically a lone ranger.

That is good for small projects. But the bigger the project, the more you need others. And the bigger the responsibility, the more you need to work in a group. In other words, it is frequently in your best interest to be a part of a team.

There are various ways you can fit into a team. You might be the leader, or you might split up the tasks so each person can work independently. Another option is to be someone who gives input to the task. And then there is the option of being a member and just following instructions. Although, if you are a free thinker like I am, that one might be difficult.

Regardless of what option you choose (or what option is selected for you), how can you be a good team member?

First, choose your projects wisely, if you have a choice. I know how I am wired and prefer not to put myself into a position where I will burn out quickly or lose interest.

Second, when you are a team member, work to be a good one. Be positive, supportive, and encouraging. If you are in a role where you can make suggestions, do so tactfully. Nobody likes working with someone who is arrogant or condescending. And recognize that you might not be the only lone ranger on the team. Understand and respect their “lone rangerness” as well as your own.

Maybe you were “voluntold” that you had to be on the team. Not the best position for a lone ranger, but, especially if you are an employee, it may be required.

If you do find yourself in that role, what do you do? Put a smile on your face and make the best of it. Be that best team member.

If you are the one recruiting a team, what should you look for?

Sometimes your contribution [to the team] might end up being something that the group hadn’t thought of but can take it to a whole new level.

Identify what you can best do yourself and where you need help. When you have identified the gaps, fill them with people that will be good team members themselves and not try to dominate or take over. Then decide who has a personality that will help the group.

I enjoy sports and like to follow my university’s teams. Someone recently asked our men’s basketball coach how he has built a cohesive team with players that stick around year after year. His response was instructive. He doesn’t look for superstars, players who are great and know it. They are not always the best team players. He looks for people that have skills, but also fit personality-wise with the other teammates. He looks for players who are willing to play a role, even if they are not the star. They must be coachable, too.

Another key component is a desire for the team to win. He doesn’t want players who try to add to their own statistics rather than do what is best for the group and the victory.

Lastly, he wants to have fun. So, he recruits players that, if he was stuck in an airport, he would enjoy being with. I think that drives it home quite well.

I don’t mind being a part of a team, but I want to find the best role for me. I am active with our local Master Gardeners organization. I am an anomaly. I am not a super gardener. I let others make the important decisions. But I can write. So, I write the promotional materials for the organization. This is a role where I can work alone and use the skills that others in the group don’t have. It is a win-win.

One last thought. As a lone ranger, I prefer not to be the team leader, but that is me. I will, however, take on whatever role is needed. Anything for the win.

If you are a lone ranger, you can be a productive member of a team. Although you might have to go about it a little differently than most. Sometimes your contribution might end up being something that the group hadn’t thought of but can take it to a whole new level. Go team!


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