Good managers encourage individuality in a team

by Ashvini on August 29, 2011 · 11 comments

in Managing Team effectively

This is the part first of a number of upcoming articles on how to manage team effectively

The biggest challenge for a team manager is to allow space for individual creativity while also keeping the objectives of team intact.

A team comprise of many members with individual aspirations. Even though teams work for a common business objective, often team members would also like to exercise a certain individual control over their work.

In many companies these days, the term “team member” has been replaced by  “resource”. While a “team member” sounds like an important part of team, resource often indicate machine like, replaceable part. It also means that people with similar skill sets are interchangeable.

I find this practice to treating team members as machine parts “sad”. This is probably the reason why teams don’t do as well as they should and there is no much widespread dissatisfaction with the job.

Calling a person as a resource is probably easy to the “resourcing department”. They do not have to sift through the qualities, skills and aspiration of individuals. They just type in skill set values and the system throws up a number of  names. Then they just pick any match. Frankly this is how many companies work these days.

A good manager however does not treat people as resources. He or she never thinks that people with same skills have the same potential ( unlike the resource department) which hands over people to him without doing detailed analysis.

In one of a project , one colleague of mine had equal  business skills then me. But he had  better skill at leading and doing the procedural work ( like liaising with other departments). I thus assumed the technical role while leaving the things that he was good at to him. Because of this division we were able to perform in our roles very well and thus project was completed well on time.

A good manager never underestimates the potential of a team member to develop in a particular role. For example, a team member in my team had great documentation skills. She loved writing, creating charts and colorful presentations. She loved documentation over doing technical stuff . The manager then assigned the task of documentation to her which was in addition to her usual work. No doubt she did fine in both the tasks.

A good manager goes beyond the proposed skill set to find out hidden aspirations and motives. He interviews the employees before they join the team to understand if they bring any special personal quality to the team. He knows that the individual possesses the required skill set but also would like to understand , what additional contribution can the team member make.  Having a strong individuality and also aligning it to team objectives makes a stronger and a better performing team.

Once such person is drafted in the team, the manager outlines suitable tasks in addition to the job role he has hired her for . Thus a manager is able to exploit the qualities of an individual and not a resource.

What is your opinion on allowing/encouraging the individuality in teams ? I would love to hear your thoughts

About The Author


Veronica Cervera@miami waterfront condos October 7, 2011 at 11:51 pm

I think individuality is very important. I really love managers who respect and appreciate this. Each and every person is different but there’s always something in every person that’s beneficial to the team, whatever the personality is. Now this is where the manager should focus on – not on personality or trait. The job of every leader is to be able to see the potential in every person in his team and be able to communicate it.

MANICKAM VIJAYABANU September 6, 2011 at 2:21 am

Nice article Ashvini.
From my view, most managers lack at leadership principles or miss understand what’s leadership! You could notice many times it wrongly sounds equal to dictatorship. Identifying passionate team member and navigate them to right direction will haul enough success and considered real teamwork.
The issue with inexpert managers, they tend not to accept facts because of ignorance. Inner personality issues. Lot of workshop required.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena September 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm


Welcome to my blog. I am glad that you like the post.
Managers often behave like dictators often . It may be either due to their insecurity or arrogance. I think both of them are not useful to manage people. I think your idea of having workshop, providing training makes a lot of sense .

Thanks again and hope to see you again . I will visit your blog soon :)

Carolyn September 5, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Wow, Ashvini, powerful post. I couldn’t agree with you more. I love Mouh’s analogy to the boat tipping over if everyone has the same skills. Too often a manager is threatened if someone else on his team shows leadership skills or has talents that the manager doesn’t possess. Your writing should be required reading for all managers!

Ashvini, I think you have fantastic leadership skills and a knack for understanding what to value in others. The people who work for you when you run your own business someday will be very lucky! :-)

Ashvini Kumar Saxena September 8, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Hi Carolyn,

Your kind words always inspire me to write on my blog:).
Too often a manager is threatened if someone else on his team shows leadership skills or has talents that the manager doesn’t possess
I have faced this problems often and so many of my colleagues who were excellent in their areas of work. If a highly talented employee work for me , I will be more than happy to manager him/her. I think the managers allow their insecurities to take over them and as a result neither the team nor the manager perform.

Thanks for recommendation of my post. I really appreciate. See you soon on your blog.

Aswani September 5, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Brilliantly written. I cannot disagree..! I wish all managers were the same typo. I think it really works out well both in favor of the employees as well as the organizations. Encouraging individuality in any employee or say, a team is what every manager must do. I think I have been quite lucky here with the same. I have been lucky with what I am allowed to do other than those routine tasks…that way I am able to use my additional skills in the best way possible. Feels quite better in the end..!

Ashvini Kumar Saxena September 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Hi Aswani,
Its great to know that you have indeed opportunity to work for your aspiration. It is really quite rare to get this opportunity.

Best of luck and thanks for comment:)

Mouh September 2, 2011 at 8:49 pm

A project is like a boat. If all the team members have similar skills, they’re standing one one side of the boat. They’ll surely sink. If they have different skills, they’ll keep the boat balanced and reach the destination.

In my experience, most managers don’t do that. They hate it when a team member knows more or has a talent for certain things. You can tell, I have some bad experiences with managers…

I look forward to the upcoming posts. :)

Something has changed on your blog… Maybe the fonts? Color? Anyway, I don’t know what ahs changed, but it is definitely much better now. :)

Ashvini Kumar Saxena September 5, 2011 at 10:01 am

Hey Mouh,

I know you have an eye for the change :). Yes, the fonts have changed from Verdana to Georgia. Headline colors have also been changed. I am glad that you like them .

It is hard to find a good boss not because there are not good bosses but because they dont work hard enough to develop the potential of team. They do not provide enough encouragement to talented employees. It is very important to keep the balance and thus make sure that team performs well.

I appreciate your comment and I am happy that you like the post. Thanks for that bro :)
Have a great day

Bryce Christiansen September 2, 2011 at 2:40 am

You nailed it Ashvini,

The specialty of our business is working with teams to understand their strengths and weaknesses so they can be better suited for the projects they tackle.

Managers unconsciously select team members that they are very similar to. We can’t help it. We like ourselves and want more of us around.

But that can leave us vulnerable to similar weaknesses or for certain tasks to remain a challenge because the appropriate skills are still missing.

Diversity in teams is a great way to bring balance to our teams.

Well done Ashvini,

I’ll definitely pass this one along to my readers.


Ashvini Kumar Saxena September 5, 2011 at 9:57 am

Hi Bryce,

Thanks again for commenting :) . Hope you are having a great day .
I feel very happy when I can see that you are working in an area that I am often passionate about. It is very important to get a balance of skill sets. Most of the time , managers want people who look , act and work like them. It reduces overall effectiveness of the team. If there are multiple skill sets then it makes for the best team.

Thanks for providing the proof to my argument. I really appreciate and hope to see you here soon :)

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