Most people have met a lone wolf. Often a highly competent and resourceful person, the lone wolf may be an enigma to colleagues. Whereas many people would like to tap into the knowledge and experience of the lone wolf, they do not seem to share the same desire to collaborate with others. This typically high performing colleague may be experienced as stand-offish or less engaged. The lone wolf’s penchant for laser focused, terse emails and lack of interest in attending any meeting that isn’t considered essential, can discourage and intimidate all but the most confident and experienced team members.
While these behaviors may serve the lone wolf well when their work can be accomplished independently, they can be a challenge when people need to collaborate to plan work, tackle complex problems, or leverage the time and resources of all team members to achieve results. Here are five strategies that may encourage the lone wolf to join the pack!
State the compelling reason
To secure the commitment of the lone wolf be prepared to explain why collaboration is required, and specifically, why the lone wolf need to be engaged. Do they have knowledge or experience that the team needs to leverage? Do they have relationships with critical stakeholders that the team needs to work with? Do they have critical skills that others on the team do not? The answers to these questions define the compelling reason, and the potential motivators for the lone wolf.
Establish collaborative goals
Secondly, the team must define collaborative goals that cannot be achieved unless team members collaborate. These collaborative goals should have a top line on individual work plans so that all team members (including the lone wolf) will know that collaborating to achieve shared goals is required to meet performance expectations. Of course, the collaborative goals must have targets and defined outcomes and be monitored and tracked. As a bonus, achieving collaborative goals is a great reason for a team to celebrate!
Define how to collaborate
Defining a compelling reason to collaborate, and defining collaborative goals is a good start; however, the team also needs to specifically define how they will collaborate – the rules of engagement. For example, what do team members need to communicate, how and when; what work must be coordinated so it can be accomplished efficiently and effectively; and when do team members need to cooperate to achieve results? While focusing attention on “how” a group of people will collaborate isn’t as natural as focusing attention on “what” the team will accomplish, clearly articulating expectations can be very helpful in ensuring that colleagues answer emails and appreciate the importance of attending meetings.
Respect different working styles
Many people who initially are pleased to collaborate often find their interest waning if their working style and work preferences are not acknowledged and respected by colleagues. A wise practice that all teams should consider, is discussing (and then adapting to) individual preferences. For example, do people prefer to provide individual comments or to brainstorm in a group; would people like to have feedback in person or by email; does it work best to meet in the morning, or later in the day? Discussing preferences and trying to find common ground models the collaborative behaviors that every team needs to be successful.
Acknowledge individual contributions
Finally, it is very important to acknowledge the individual contributions of all team members. Generalizing and suggesting that all team members have contributed equally, if in fact they have not, is annoying to everyone, not just the lone wolf. Going back to the compelling reason why the lone wolf needed to collaborate can provide an insight into the contribution they may have made. This wise practice will secure the on-going commitment and engagement of the whole pack!
In summary, engage your high performing lone wolf by articulating a compelling reason for their engagement; establishing and tracking collaborative goals; identifying how the team will communicate, coordinate and cooperate to achieve success; acknowledging and respecting working styles; and celebrating individual contributions.