Teams Versus Individuals - Who Wins?

For racing fans, the Formula 1 Malaysia Grand Prix was an interesting race. There was the strange – a top contender bypassing a pit stop for necessary repairs only to crash as a result a moment later. Another driver pulled into the wrong pit – his old team – and had to make a quick change to the right pit team.

 Most strange of all were the winners on the podium after the race. Two of the three were very unhappy and the winner later had to apologize for winning.

 The top finishers were all unhappy due to teamwork and individual performance.

Webber and Vettel in a post-race interview
 Sebastian Vettel, the driver who ultimately won, passed his teammate, Mark Webber, after both were told to maintain their positions as the race leaders – Webber in first place, followed by Vettel. The idea was to preserve wear and tear on the cars and engines as well as maintain fuel to the end of the race to meet Formula 1 regulations. Despite the team order, Vettel passed Webber anyway, taking Webber by surprise and went on to win the race.

     Meanwhile, a similar skirmish was underway as two more teammates battled for 3rd place. Nico Rosberg was in fourth, but with better tires on his car wanted to pass his teammate, Lewis Hamilton. The team boss told him to back off, which he did and finished the race in fourth, missing the chance to be on the podium.

Hamilton and Rosberg pose for a promo shot
     At the podium, Webber was clearly angry and the maneuver was a hot topic and clearly put a pall over the race.

      Hamilton, who finished in third, stated that his teammate should have been there instead. Vettel acted as if he didn’t understand why his actions had created such uproar. Racing news followed the feuding after the race and Vettel and Webber’s team had to make a special announcement that the team leaders were in fact, in charge of the drivers and would control their team. Vettel had to issue an apology.

     Business leaders have to deal with the same kind of challenges as well and should try to understand the personal motivators for each team member. Leaders need to also understand how to manage those situations very carefully.

      In organizations, individuals may get bonuses or raises based, rightfully, on their own performance. The risk is that people could take credit or not want to share credit where they should. There is always someone who creates artificial problems to fix; or attracts attention without really doing anything – and, unfortunately, there is usually someone who believes them.

      To be an effective leader, there are a few key points to keep in mind to manage and coordinate team and individual success.

1.      Align individual goals with team goals. Clearly set expectations for individuals in a way that match your goals as a leader and help move the organization closer to strategic goals.

2.     Allow individuals to use their own strengths. In other words, do not have a cookie cutter approach to goal setting. Best performance for everyone is when everyone can use their strengths in a coordinated approach. In our racing example, the drivers want to use their skills and talents, but have to use those to benefit the team. That helps bring in team money, ensures better equipment, and reduces the chances of penalties in future races (using too many engines in a season results in losing starting position later in the season). Working together goes farther towards those goals than individualism.

3.     Look beyond the obvious. Pay attention to who actually did what work on a project or towards achieving common goals. It is good to ask specific questions about roles, contributions and responsibilities rather just assuming what everyone’s’ roles were. This goes for job interviews as well if an applicant is pointing to leading a project. Ask detailed questions about their contributions to clarify their actual role.

4.     Maintain control. When individuals and teams cross paths, get everyone refocused on the organization’s goals and strategic objectives.

             Follow these guidelines and you’ll finish your race with your team (and individual members) on top of the pack.
Support Business Karate and keep the posts coming!


Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense. He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management. Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces. To learn more email



If you would like to reprint this post, please contact Eric at 

No comments:

Post a Comment