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Managing an Individual Contributor versus Managing a Team

By Laura Goad, HCM Consultant

Being a manager is challenging and rewarding all at the same time.  One of the most important ways to successfully manage your team or any individual contributor is your consistency.  Before your management approach can be effective, it must be consistent.  An example would be to ensure you recognize and reward or correct members of the workforce similarly for common behaviors, contributions, performance failures, or conduct violations.  When you are consistent it will be evident that you treat everyone professionally, respectfully, and with a non-bias view.

Consistency is critical, however when dealing with an individual contributor versus a team, there are nuances and best practices to help you achieve your goals.

Individual contributors are skilled professions in their field of expertise.  These members of your workforce are often critical to success and are probably indispensable to you.  The challenge for you as their manager is helping them grow professionally.  Just because they don’t want to move into a management role does not mean they don’t want to grow professionally and advance their competency and capabilities for the business.  You should engage these individuals and partner with them to build a strategy for their professional development or you may risk losing them to competitors who offer them a path to career advancement and development.

Ways to ensure that your individual contributor is developing and happy in their position is to have one on one discussions to map out opportunities for development.  Help them understand their value and encourage them to think about how they can expand their experience while supporting the success of the business.

Managing teams have their set of challenges too, since each team member brings to work each day a different set of competencies, skills sets, experience, and ideas.  Creating a culture of collaboration and coaching members of your team to recognize the value of diversity of thought can enhance the effectiveness of the team.  Strive to be thought leader and encourage your team to leverage the capabilities of each other to achieve common goals.  When considering the organizational and professional development of the team, you cannot treat each member the same, nor can you expect the same results out of each member.

It is important to take the time to get to know all the individual strengths and weaknesses of your staff, and then develop a strategic plan to address and mitigate the gaps.  Unlike dealing with a single individual worker, you must understand the impact of your interactions and communication with the team on various individuals.  As noted above, consistency will avoid the perception of favoritism and bias, and help you build trust and respect of the team.  Work diligently to help your team understand the pros and cons of team work so they can develop the skills necessary to collaborate and communicate effectively to achieve the goals you have established for the team.  To learn more about building effective teams contact me at 302.276.3302 or email me at