As I pull into the Quick Mart to fill up with gas for the trip home, my mind is full of joyful memories from a day of fishing on Lake Whittington. The river has receded and as the water level drops, my favorite fish, crappie, are known to turn on big time. Unfortunately, today wasn’t “the” day, but we caught some fish and it is such a blessing to be out on that beautiful lake just enjoying God’s creation.
You can imagine what a relaxed mindset I have as I begin to pump gas into my truck for the ride home. Two bikers have pulled up at the pumps directly across from me and the first biker takes his gas cap off and begins filling his tank. Gazing back at my pump, I hear one of the bikers yell something. I turn to see he has overrun his tank and gas has spilled all over his bike and even on his jeans. His fellow biker hands him a towel. This guy has a cigarette in his hand! So much for a relaxing mindset, let’s get my pump cut off and get out of here now.
I can’t take my eyes off this guy as I quickly stop my pump as all I want next is to put some distance between him and me. He actually puts the cigarette up to his lips and takes a long draw as he wipes up the excess gas with a towel. Surely not, I think as I quickly pull out and shoot up the road. I don’t see or hear an explosion. It must be his (and my) lucky day!
This experience reminds me of the risks we take with lone wolves in our firms. They usually bring exceptional value in some respect, yet they constantly put the firm and us at even bigger risks. Lone wolves tend not to think about those around them or how acting independently can lead to bad outcomes. In The Challenger Sale, Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson describe lone wolves as “deeply self-confident with a natural ability to succeed on their own instincts. They break rules, are hard to manage, and do things their way or no way at all.”
Are you watching a lone wolf spill some gas? A business development lead who prices alone? A team member who never finds the time to follow the standards? The senior leader who engages in client work without an engagement letter or who guards the client relationship from the team? The partner that loses or misses big opportunities because they refuse to collaborate? The manager who destroys the culture with lack of respect or ugly behaviors?
Beware the lone wolves as they can ruin even a perfectly good fishing day! Let’s let them ride off in another direction. We can #beEvenBetter if we focus on team members who help us build high performing teams. What is the old adage — if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.