Guest blog post by FHRD Member, Up Your Level 

Integration vs individuality 

Where does it begin?

We often associate it with bonding with others in a team or partnership or being part of a community.

But are we going about integration the right way? If so why is it not working?

This morning I was listening to the audiobook: Intraconnected by Dr. Dan Siegel – which (in oversimplified concise terms) is about linking our self-awareness with each other and also the physical and spiritual world which we live in.

It got me thinking about my identity, as a person, in this body with this mind, with this name, in this role(s), which shapes my mindset and influences my behaviour and attitude.

A question came up for me: How do I integrate with others without losing my identity?

The chain of integration 

I often think of integration as a ring on a chain which smoothly clips on and blends in with the rest, making it stronger and longer.

With that metaphor we assume that the shape and size of that individual ring is a match, and we can proceed to work as a team.

What it does not take into account is if the individual ring is not a match, and will not clip into the rest without causing a break in the chain.

The right “fit”  

If we think about it, we see this happening with people around us regularly. We try to fit square pegs into round holes, and are surprised when they don’t “fit in.”

How many times has a new person joined a team after successfully passing through the recruitment process, only to cut their employment short way before the probation period is over?

Unless the recruit was not up to scratch which what they promised or the job was not what they signed up for, a common reason given is that they did not “fit in” with the team.

What does “fitting in” really mean? 

I worked in a company where I witnessed this happening numerous times and the reason given was always the same: “They did not fit in”

It seemed to me, that people who did not share the most common attributes with the tech team often weren’t the “right fit.”

What was strange though is that a good number of people, myself included, in the organisation did not “match” those attributes, yet we still integrated with the team, which made me wonder…

What really is the problem?

Is it integration or homogenization? 

It is common to have similar type of people in teams or business communities. People naturally are attracted to “people like them” and tend to employ and work with an extension of their persona.

What’s wrong with that?

Cultural homogenisation within a team can be a barrier to integration.  Lack of diversity can also impact overall performance and stunt innovation.

Are we letting the ring leaders direct the game or are we encouraging individuality?

What can businesses do?

We recently hosted an International Vistage Speaker who runs a successful organisation with a strong Employer Brand. Jeff Dewing delivered a masterclass on Recruitment and Retention strategies and shared his best practices.

Part of the recruitment process he shared lingered in my mind, as he spoke about the onboarding process: They completely skip the traditional interview process – you can read why Traditional Interviews are not Fit for Purpose here – and instead invite successful candidates to spend a day in their office: They organise a day of activities with key members in different teams and get to know their human side in an informal setting. The company gets to know the new recruits directly through the people they will be working with and the candidates get a real flavour of the culture by experiencing it in a “real” environment.

That to me, sounds like a great integration strategy.

Another somewhat radical strategy that was famously adopted by a multimillionaire was that he used to “interview” his key people over lunch or dinner in a public restaurant. He would purposely ask the servers to mess up the order in order to see the recruit’s reaction. Whether the candidate would rudely flare up at the waiter, be passive and pretend nothing happened or handle the situation respectfully and politely would direct his judgement call as to whether this was the right type of person he wanted on the team.

2 key learnings could be useful when introducing a new person to the team:

  • Assigning “buddies” from the existing team to help the new team member integrate
  • Creating opportunities to get to know people in real environments when not everything is necessarily running smoothly

What’s your story? 

Back to Dr. Dan Siegal’s book, on the concept of integration, he describes a scenario where a group of people come together from completely different backgrounds with the intention to build a community.

Before beginning the process of integration, each person is asked to share their personal story and the rest of the group is to receive it with empathy and acceptance, which creates a safe space and sets the foundations of trust while respecting each person’s individuality within a group setting.

I remember also experiencing this process in a business setting while I was undergoing Chair training by the largest global leadership coaching organisation, Vistage. During one of the first sessions, each CEO and business owner in the room removed all their armour and told their personal story and background, as raw and harsh as they were. The vulnerability shown, immediately heightened the level of trust in the room and accelerated the integration process as each individual was accepted for who they really are beyond the professional context and where they came from.

This experience served its purpose throughout the course as certain discussions and perhaps more difficult conversations took place which could have easily led to “group think”. It felt natural to go deep by asking big questions and respectfully challenge each other within this safe space.

These couple of points are powerful creators of trust and can be transformational in the process of integration whilst retaining individuality:

  • Encourage sharing of personal stories in a safe space
  • Being curious and taking the time to listen to each other with an accepting and non judgemental approach

Integrating with individuality in mind


A good starting point for integration, whilst retaining individuality, is vulnerability and trust, which enables people to grow together as a unified team enforced by each individual’s personal strengths.

Our team at Up Your Level has a decade of experience guiding businesses to write their own stories, by aligning leaders and their teams towards a common purpose, while reinforcing their individuality to reach limitless heights in organisational and individual performance.

To discover our programmes, pay us a visit, and see how we can help you up your level!


Daphne Grech Cumbo is dedicated to helping professionals elevate their performance and be the best version of themselves through the embodiment of wellbeing in everyday life to suit their identity, lifestyle and ambitions. She brings her business experience and qualifications as a Health coach, Habit coach and Heroic coach which holistically integrate our fundamentals to work and life.

Living the Up your level F.I.R.E philosophy, she will help you live a life full of FLOW that leaves the desired IMPACT through each of your ROLES, and keep you motivated on your path to EXCELLENCE!