One size does not fit all.  We know it and still, whether it's our need to compartmentalize, our need to make order out of chaos, or it's just plain easier, we often try to mold our teams to look alike, act alike, be alike.

Everyone wanted white go-go boots.  And to be in junior high and be able to dance the pony, the swim, the other crazy dances of the sixties and look like The go-go dancers in the cages suspended from the ceiling at concerts and teen fairs - well, it was just too cool.

I got go-go boots, but here's where the catch came in, the trade off deal.  I had to share them with my two little sisters.  Sounds like a reasonable parental decision-based arrangement, only didn't quite work out that way.  First of all, our feet were not the same size, so the boots were tight on me and big on them.  Secondly, we never did agree on an equitable "sharing the go-go boots" arrangement simply because we all had different agendas.  Mine was to wear them as much as I could and look like every other junior high girl.  My sisters' agenda was to want to wear them simply because I did, and they could. This was intended as a learning experience in group dynamics and problem solving. 

The arrangement was a  failure.  My feet grew quickly squeezing me out of the boots before I had a chance to perfect my go-go style.  Coincidentally, my sisters lost interest and wanted their own styles about the same time.  The go-go boots were given away to the neighbor girl who danced her way to the bus stop every day for weeks in our boots.

How often do we provide something; a directive, a process, equipment to our teams and a) expect that one size fits all and,  b) the team can figure out on its own how to make it work. Much like realizing that there are different learning and reasoning styles, there are different problem solving styles within teams as well.  Following up and getting meaningful feedback is how you can see where the breakdown not only occurs but where it can be rescued as well.

Failing to recognize your team members as individuals is a setup for missing opportunities.  Acknowledge  the sameness where it is, uniform presence, shared goals, shared performance objectives, and so forth, but also be cognizant of the individual characteristics, strengths and weaknesses.   And boot size.

It's hard to dance when your feet hurt. 



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