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Teamwork And Collaboration Is All BS!

by David Brock on January 8th, 2015

My friend, Mike Weinberg, has gotten all in a lather about whether we hire Team Players Or Top Producers.  His post is really good, I tend to agree with him, but have a slightly different perspective.

We tend to casually toss around ideas of “good team players,” we need to “collaborate,” we need to “partner.”  They are important concepts, but over time they’ve tended to be viewed as ends and not means.  And I think that’s what Mike is railing against, and I’m in wild agreement.

Teamwork, collaboration, partnering are all meaningless as outcomes.  We don’t do these things to have an outcome of great teamwork–I don’t even know how to measure that.

Instead, teamwork, collaboration and even partnering are all mechanisms that allow us to more effectively and efficiently achieve goals.

I’ll take Mike’s argument and ratchet it up a notch or two with this statement:  We only want to look at teamwork, collaboration, and partnering as a last resort.  If we can achieve our goals without this, we are much better off.  Teamwork, collaboration, and partnering is inherently messy and possibly inefficient.  We have to rely on other to help us, we have to make sure everyone is aligned, in sync and focused on the same outcomes and goals.

So if we can achieve our goals without doing this, we are probably much better off, and probably much more effective and efficient.  If we can do things by ourselves, we don’t want anyone else in the way, slowing us down.  We want to achieve that goal as effectively and efficiently as possible.

In the old days, and in some very few cases today, we can still do that–that’s why we revere the Lone Wolf.  The sales person that can’t be bothered by the “niceties” of team work and collaboration, but they go off by themselves, do their own thing, and come back having made the numbers.  It used to be an effective model, and in some rare cases might still be an effective model.

But for most of us in complex B2B sales, the world has changed and become much tougher.  We can’t possibly do it alone.  We need other resources to help us.  Perhaps specialists, perhaps technical people, perhaps product managers, perhaps marketing people, perhaps partners in other organizations (e.g. we may have great products, but we need an integration partner to help make them work in a customer environment.)  Specifically,  because of the breadth and complexity of our solutions, the breadth and complexity of our customers’ businesses, the number of skills, resources, and capabilities we need to have to achieve our goals, mandate we leverage others for help.

It’s because of this that teamwork, collaboration, and partnering become important to top performers and producers–without this, they wouldn’t be top performers and producers.  The lone wolf cannot survive, let alone be a top producer in most of today’s complex business environments.  Top producers are great team players and collaborators, and leverage that capability selfishly to achieve their goals.

Likewise, the people they are leveraging, should be leveraging each other selfishly to help achieve their own goals.  Where we see dysfunctional teams, bad collaborations, is where we can’t get aligned, we can’t organize ourselves for each of us to execute our own responsibly at the highest levels.  We see “teams” that work well together, but achieve nothing–this is a dysfunctional team.  There is no reason to team or collaborate, unless each of us is doing it because it is critical to achieve our goals.

Going back to Mike’s great discussion.  I don’t know how to hire for “good team player.”  I don’t know that being a good team player is meaningful.  I do want to look at seasoned top performers who know they can’t be lone wolves, and know how to engage and lead a “team” to achieve their goals. I do want people who know how to get things done in large complex organizations and situations.

We need to stop talking about teams, collaboration, and partnering as ends.  We don’t have teams for team work sake.  We don’t collaborate just to say we are collaborating.

Teamwork, collaboration, partnering are just means to accelerate the ability of each team member (hopefully, all top performers) to achieve their goals.  They actively engage and participate in the team because they know they can’t achieve their goals otherwise.

  1. Dave: As a social (media) lone wolf, this post resonated with me! 😉 Eye-catching headline and an interesting twist on the topic.

  2. infotalk permalink

    One of the worst posts. This skims over lot of details of what collaboration actually brings to table. You are only looking at collaboration from all wrong perspective. Collaboration enhances communication and that is many times key to cross group or cross team hand overs / deliverables.

    • You may have misread the article. It was actually not about collaboration or collaboration techniques. I was trying to address other issues, collaboration was just a “stalking horse” to bring those issues up.

      If you look at some of the other articles at the bottom of that post, you will find many more articles that address the issues you addressed.

  3. Nice post, Dave. The problem, of course, is that we revere the “lone wolf” for getting things done, but silently decide they’re not good for the organization as a whole since they tend to break the rules, fashion work-arounds, and generally irritate others with their attitude that screams “arrogance” to others who don’t like that approach.
    It takes a very insightful and confident manager to hire these people and give them room to run.
    How rare are those managers?!?

    • Great to see you here again Kelly. I think managers that give any of their people room to run are rare. It’s too bad, if managers had greater confidence in their people and truly coached them to improve, both the work environment and the results produced would be awesome! Thanks for the comment!

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