Great achievements are projects of huge teams, with each individual working to deliver the final product.
By Antony Kairu
Ihave a problem with how success stories are told. Narratives about companies like Facebook, Google, Safaricom or Tesla hang on the leaders who are celebrated for their inventions ‘and theories. Most of these stories are told as a one-man show, many times honouring the CEO or chairperson of the company. But, a closer look at things shows that these achievements are projects of huge teams, with each individual working to deliver the final product.
Independence is defined as the state of being autonomous. Social psychologist Hazel Markus in her book “Clash!”describes the independent individual as one who values being unique, making a contribution, being heard ‘and influencing others. However, I believe there is something greater than independence – interdependence.
Hazel illustrates that the “interdependent” self emphasizes relationships, similarities to others, adjusting to others ‘and fitting in with one’s social surroundings.
This comparison is also well done by Stephen Covey in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” where he describes independence as the “I can do it, I am responsible ‘and self-reliant attitude” while interdependence is the paradigm of “we” – we can do it attitude.
In today’s business environment, we are on a daily basis doing projects ‘and engagements that on the face value appear as individual effort but in the real sense are projects that need a joint effort to meet the expected aim. The same goes for our social lives. Be it achieving an economic goal as a family or overcoming a challenge, it is easier done together as opposed to individually. The interdependence concept is one which was valued in our traditional African societies. We had stories ‘and songs just to illustrate how the community needed to stick together ‘and each person to do their part to achieve a community living in a symphony.
There is a saying that a camel is a horse but was designed by a committee. This quote generally tries to show the great challenges that come with group mentality ‘and complexities of working in groups. But how true is this? Working independently in management only yields inefficiencies since the strengths ‘and skills of all are not optimally utilised to achieve the goal. This interdependence is achieved when we see effective teamwork, collaboration between various departments ‘and managers ‘and proper delegation.
Working in sync
Highly effective managers are able to link up various parties at a workplace ‘and bring them on board to achieve the organisation’s target. This is a skill that one needs to learn to use right from the start.
Once your teams start working in this kind of synch, your work burden as a manager is significantly lighter ‘and all you have to do is review ‘and guide where necessary.
I recently watched an interview of Viktor Frankl on “Finding Meaning in Difficult Times”, where asserts that he believes that the human being was not created to serve self but others. In a bid to develop the self, our circumstances ‘and our world as a whole, we need to come together, identify the issues at h ‘and, identify each person’s contribution ‘and let each person identify their responsibility in the big goal being achieved. This is the main purpose of management. I want to believe that a camel is a horse designed by an independent hardworking manager.
Running a business is challenging. One needs to deal with difficult customers, workers, authorities ‘and partners, among others. How do enterprises deal with this? They try to overcome them as individuals, independently. They go ahead ‘and device solutions ‘and implement them. The aftermath is that real solutions are often never achieved. But had these businesses combined their efforts ‘and become interdependent on each other, the challenges would probably be a thing of the past.
Interdependence a choice
Socially we tend to imagine that being in need of the other people is being needy, which in our perception, is a character flaw. Other words used are clingy, possessive or smothering. As human beings we are wired to need each other. We are all needy because we need each other. Interdependence in the social scene is about each person doing their bit to make the relationship become better.
The “7 Habits” concludes that being ‘and acting interdependently is a choice only independent people can make. For one to realise that by themselves they can accomplish only so much is a reality only those who have overcome themselves can do ‘and these are the truly independent people. As kick-start to the New Year, I hope this will be a year of working together to achieve as individuals, families, businesses, communities ‘and most importantly as a country. We will continue empowering ourselves independently so that we strengthen our interdependence all round.
Antony Kairu is an associate in KPMG Kenya.