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To avoid criticism…


~Elbert Hubbard

As a manager, do you wonder if your collaborative groups are yielding the best results for your organization’s goals? As a team member, do you secretly cringe at the thought of working with others on a project? You are not alone.

The current trend in education, the workplace, and the marketplace is to focus on collaboration. The emphasis on collaboration is hinged on the premise that it will leverage the varying degrees of knowledge and skillsets of members within an organization. The hope is that collaboration will yield the best possible outcome from the group as a whole. The belief is that differences between members of a team will be complementary, so these differences can be used to strengthen an organization by increasing its capacity.

For these hopes and beliefs in collaborative work to deliver the goods, there has to be carefully crafted guidelines and realistic expectations throughout the organization.  Otherwise collaborative teams fail and the individual is muted. To avoid criticism even the brightest among us will say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. This can spell disasterous stagnation for your organization.

The old saying, “two heads are better than one” is accepted as a wise and true statement for good cause. In most cases, effective problem solving happens when you combine talent, experience, and other resources.

Collaborative work compels and obligates you to communicate your ideas and strengths to others.  When everyone’s weaknesses and strengths are on the table, everyone knows who to ask for help when necessary. Well, maybe…

Nevertheless, becoming one big brain is good. Right? It depends. In my experience, with all the positive outcomes that may come from collaboration, the contributions of the individual are the cornerstone for innovation. Therefore, a multi-faceted approach that allows for this dichotomy must be a purposefully integrated into an organization for greater success.

Managers and other leaders must recognize that sometimes the loudest voice or the most forceful personality tend to get their ideas heard and adopted more readily than an introverted quiet voice. Oversights of great ideas due to communication styles of qualified team members can be a detriment to the organization. It hurts morale and effectively shuts done real collaboration. This is the power and weakness of group dynamics. Gensler, an international design firm for business exhorts in their whitepaper, What We’ve Learned About Focus in The Workplace that “workplace strategies that sacrifice individual focus in pursuit of collaboration will result in decreased effectiveness for both,” especially when a person with a dynamite idea becomes frustrated. As Gensler contributors recognize, a “frustrated person is highly unlikely to…happily collaborate” or be productive.

So, now the goal is to counterbalance the value of collaboration with the value of an individual’s problem solving processes to produce the best solutions.

While there are a host of other proven strategies that can empower individuals to create more dynamic organizations, I offer these two tips to begin the process:

  1. For managers: Devise written policies that allow for individual input to be evaluated beyond in-person collaborative group settings and provide incentives for individual contributions.
  2. For team members: Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd if you know your solution has merit. Don’t be afraid to ask your team members to help flesh them out. Be quick to identify a great idea by a colleague and assist how you can. You will learn and may create an ally for your next great idea.


Successful collaborations and individual contributions should be acknowledged. To be effective, collaborative endeavors must not suppress individual contributions.

Contact me so we can discuss how I can help you achieve your goals as a leader or team member.