There’s historically an American appreciation for “rugged individualism.” The romantic ideal of making it on your own — being a “maverick” (or branding yourself as one).
I’ve noticed this tendency in myself–no, I’m no John McCain, but for much of my life I was not much of a joiner. That isn’t to say I wasn’t that proverbial “good team player;” just that I trust my instincts and find solitary pursuits fulfilling and stimulating.
However, there comes a time when going it alone–or improvising– is not only not the best option–but not an option at all.
The legendary first man on the Moon himself, Neil Armstrong spoke about the need for teamwork on his historic mission in a letter to NPR’s Robert Krulwich:
I talked about Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s walk across the lunar surface back in 1969 and wondered, how come they walked such a modest distance? Less than a hundred yards from their lander?
Today Neil Armstrong wrote in to say, here are the reasons:
- It was really, really hot on the moon, 200 degrees Fahrenheit. We needed protection.
- We were wearing new-fangled, water-cooled uniforms and didn’t know how long the coolant would last.
- We didn’t know how far we could go in our space suits.
- NASA wanted us to conduct our experiments in front of a fixed camera.
But basically, he says, we were part of a team and we were team players on a perilous, one-of-a-kind journey. Improvisation was not really an option (emphasis mine).
Sure, you’re probably not landing on another planet as part of your business, but you are doing things every day that affect the profitability of your company.
Part of my hesitance to be a team guy probably stems from my early career as a journalist. Reporters aren’t team players–at least they weren’t in the newsrooms I haunted. When I moved from journalism to PR, my early jobs were at companies where I was basically a one-man shop. That changed as my career progressed, but old habits die hard. Even when I had staff and team members to work with I had a tough time letting go of some things. That may also have had something to do with my ego, too.
Though I now run a truly one-man shop, I’ve learned to call upon strategic partners who can do some things better than I can. I want my clients to not only get the results of the best job I can do, but I want them to get the best results possible.
Ask yourself: does your learned behavior, ego, or insecurity prevent you from being a team player when it counts? Make sure when you make that one small step for (a) man…well, you get the idea.