03 Dec Are You A Team Player?
Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but intelligence and teamwork wins championships”. And it is true enough – teamwork can be a very potent driver of success, provided you keep some caveats in mind.
Working in teams can be both rewarding and frustrating, but the ability to work well with others is pivotal when it comes to a successful career. Most recruiters want their new hires to be ‘team players’ which essentially refers to an ability to work and gel well with other people. Although it sounds simple enough, working with others to accomplish a common goal can be one of the most challenging aspects of your job, and not least because every member of the team brings to the table unique skills, opinions and personalities. Work-styles can differ, causing friction and reducing the effectiveness of the team.
The onus of building a team and working well within it falls upon both the team leaders and team members. Here are a few critical questions that managers and team leaders should be asking themselves, in order to ensure maximum productivity within the team.
Team effectiveness checklist for team leads and managers:
Does the goal need synergizing of different competencies?
Some goals are more complicated and need more people working on them, but some others are fairly straightforward. Employing more people in such situations is likely to be unproductive at best and counterproductive at worst. It may be time to step back and reassess your human resource allocation.
Is the team redundant?
Sometimes organizations have multiple teams working towards the same goal. This is another basic resource allocation goof-up. Remember the adage “too many cooks spoil the broth”? Yes, that holds true here as well.
Does every team member have a clearly defined role in the team?
It is critical to ensure that every team member knows her role and is aware of her contribution in helping the team reach their goal. When team members don’t have clearly defined roles, they end up stepping on each others’ toes, causing needless antagonism and boundless confusion.
Is one person or a few people pulling the weight of the entire team?
In an ideal world, every team member would bring unique skills and competencies to the table and they would all work in tandem to produce optimal results. Reality however, often presents a starkly contrasting picture, with one person or a few people undertaking most of the responsibility. When there is inequitable distribution of workload, intentionally or unintentionally, some team members are bound to get overworked (or underworked), burnt out (or unsatisfied with their job) and resentful.
Are there slackers in your team? Why do they slack?
They say a team is only as strong as its weakest link. Slackers are good examples of these weak links: they don’t contribute much in terms of ideas or efforts. They tend to piggyback on other peoples’ hard work and bask in the reflected glory of their team mates successes. Team leaders can handle such issues effectively by fostering a healthy work culture within the team and encouraging independent contributions by team members.
Are you capitalizing on every team member’s strength?
There is (or at least, there should be) a reason why each of your team members are a part of the team. A good team is where every member brings expertise in a particular area, and to function smoothly, the team leader needs to make sure that each person’s role is aligned with their specific competency.
Are you aware of the conflicts and undercurrents of tension in the team?
When people from different backgrounds converge, differences are bound to emerge. Sometimes, unresolved differences crystallize into hostility and cause friction and conflict between colleagues. As a result, their work suffers and goals go unmet, not to mention the fact that you have a bunch of unhappy employees in your team. As the manager or team lead, you would do well to be aware of these differences and to play an active role in resolving them as they arise.
Have you laid down the law?
Teams need some amount of structure to function effectively. Setting down some ground rules is a great idea, because it encourages a healthy, respectful work culture and doesn’t leave much place for within team politics.
What you should keep in mind while working as a part of a team:
Working in a team is a balancing act and the experience can be full of contradictions. Here are a few things you should keep in mind if you work in a team:
Putting personal differences aside
So you are not too fond of some of your colleagues at a personal level, but are forced to work with them in a team? You would do well to leave your feelings out of your professional equation. Desist from personal attacks, mudslinging, blame-games and passive aggressive moves (like withholding critical information), not only do these hinder your team’s progress, they also reflect poorly on you.
And respecting individual differences
You don’t have to agree with your team mates on everything, but you do have to respect their opinions nevertheless. This means no talking down to people and no arm twisting till they come around to your way of thinking. ‘Let’s agree to disagree’ is a popular way of dealing with deadlocks – it might not resolve issues but it will definitely help foster mutual respect, which might be more important in the long run.
Holding your own
Working with others can sometimes mean that you lose track of your individuality and start identifying too much with your team. Remember, you have to hone your own skills and know how to carry a project on your own shoulders as well, if you want your career to grow and thrive. Be a team player, but don’t blend in at the cost of your individuality and your personal goals.
And being a part of a bigger picture
That being said, there are moments that belong to the team, rather than its individual players. Sometimes, you have to compromise and put your team’s needs ahead of your own, accepting personal defeat to contribute to the team’s success.
Claiming credit where it is due
One of the challenges of working as a part of the team is that your achievements tend to no longer be your own. Credit can sometimes get lost when you are working in a team, but it is important to make sure that your work gets noticed at critical junctures. Your career depends on it, so knowing when to stand out and when to blend in is very important.
And not hogging the limelight where it is not
Vying for too much attention is one of the surest ways of alienating your colleagues. You may have contributed significantly to your team’s success, but saying “We did it!” instead of “I did it!” will reflect well on you and add to your credentials as a good team player.
A very common problem that arises in team meetings is that people are not trained enough to listen. We live such fast paced lives that we have trained ourselves to just hear a few words and reinterpret the entire message. The problem with this is that we often get the message wrong, not to mention come across as uninterested to the speaker. Train yourself to listen to others, and to respond rather than reacting.
And speaking up
There are times when we are ridden with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. We are afraid that our ideas might sound silly and that speaking up in front of others might lead to ridicule. Know that these self-doubts, while entirely normal and common, might be sabotaging your career and hurting your chances of success in more ways than you realize.
Carrying your own weight
When you are in charge of completing a task, make sure that you do it. Assess your personal progress and your contribution from time to time and make sure that things are not getting skewed – ensure that you are not shirking your own responsibilities, and also that you are not carrying the added load of others’ responsibilities as well.
And not throwing your weight around
It feels good to be the person who calls all the shots, but know that a position like that comes with immense responsibility. Even the best leaders are those who take cues from their team members before making important decisions. And if you don’t have the ‘leader’ tag, it might just come across as being bossy and intrusive.
Working with others can be quite the tight rope act, and the key is really to strike a balance. But once you get there, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences to work towards and accomplish common goals. Because as Mattie Stepanek puts it, “Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”
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