I’m working with a client whose strategy was to hire the best specialists and throw them together to solve the problems faced by their clients. You can imagine the result – not quite what the founders imagined. It’s similar to the outcomes described by Dr Meredith Belbin, the creator of the Belbin Team Roles inventory, in his book Management Teams: Why they succeed or fail.
Unfortunately, there’s a dangerous tendency for specialists to also be superiorists -“I’m better than you are” and whilst I don’t know for sure, I suspect this organisation had a few of them.
It’s the same when the most technically expert person is promoted to a management role; their attitude is often “no one can do it as well as I can” and unfortunately, the staff get the communication loud and clear.
So what can we do in such a situation?
If you are the ‘superior specialist’, the key is to remind yourself that even if you can do better than others, you can’t necessarily do more than others, so you have to decide to what extent you are interested in quality and to what extent you are interested in achieving more than you alone can achieve, which is the power of team-based working.
From a team perspective, it’s useful to acknowledge that strengths come bundled together with weaknesses, so a good thinker is not necessarily good person with people and vice versa, but a team that has all bases covered can outperform any single-strength team, no matter how technically brilliant.