Team work and serving as a team player comes up over and over again in the business world. Yet, this directive often lacks specific examples. Without such examples, it is difficult to put this important concept into action. That is going to change today. You will learn seven ways to become a team player and help those around you to win.
Defining Team Work & The Team Player
Much discussion on these concepts come from the sports world (and sometimes the military). Both sports and the military bring together groups of people to achieve a result so the analogy is reasonable at a high level. However, the professional world is significantly different in several ways when it comes to incentives and ground rules. Let’s use the following team work definitions to guide our thinking.
- “Someone who is good at working closely with other people” (Cambridge Dictionaries online, British English)
- “A member of a group who tries to do what is good for the group rather than what is good for just himself or herself.” (Cambridge Dictionaries online, American English)
- “We often use the phrase:” he or she is a good team player”. This means someone has the interests of the team at heart, working for the good of the team.” (The Happy Manager)
- “Able to play the Belbin’s Team Roles such as Resource Investigator, Teamworker, Co-ordinator, Plant or Specialist (Belbin’s Team Roles)
Belbin’s model makes an important observation that individuals tend to focus on a specific type of team role. For example, technical experts are generally comfortable in the role of the subject matter expert. The same person may be less experienced when it comes to the “shaper” role – the person who drives work forward. The flexibility to switch between team roles is important. Why? Adaptable team players know that they need to make different contributions based on what the team needs, not their preferences.
Seven Ways To Contribute As A Team Player
Use these tips to add more value to your work as a team player. Your job title may be manager or project manager. Yet, you will still serve in the team member capacity from time to time.
1.Take The Off Beat Assignment
From time to time, you may be asked to complete work assignments that have little interest and may not be related to your main work. A strong team player will generally accept these assignments and deliver them. There is one nuance to keep in mind: be mindful of how accepting additional assignments impact your “official role”
Action Tip: Say yes with enthusiasm when new tasks and deliverables come up at the workplace.
2. Support Another Person’s Success
Serving as the lead on a project has obvious appeal – the glory and recognition that comes with a job well done. What about supporting another person’s success? That’s a key contribution to make as a team player. This support role may be simple – helping to proofread an important document or acting as a sounding board for ideas – or it may be complex. Either way, support makes a difference.
Action Tip: Is someone on your team overwhelmed? Ask about the situation and listen to find out if there is a way for you to help.
3. Become A Trainer
Has your department (or a related department) recently hire a new person? In that case, training may be needed. Training could be technical or tips on how to navigate your office successfully. Understanding the organization’s history, relationships between managers and related points is difficult without a guide. Serve as a guide to the new person to help them navigate the organization.
Action Tip: Review the How To Onboard Yourself In 5 Days article for ideas on how you can help someone else with helping somebody get up to speed quickly.
4. Become A Student Again
Starting over in learning a new skill or job function is not easy. I’m reminded of what some used to call “the Grade 9 effect” (i.e. finish elementary school at Grade 8 and you are on the top until you realize that you will soon start over again at high school at the most junior level, Grade 9).
Becoming a student again at work requires that you marshal your inner student, become curious and take notes. If you see flaws or ineffective steps in what you are learning, take note of these and raise them at a later time.
Resource: Read the Zen Habits article “How to Live Life to the Max with Beginner’s Mind” for further guidance on this topic.
5. Ask “How” To Maintain Forward Momentum
Seth Godin wrote, “The devil doesn’t need an advocate. The brave need supporters, not critics.” Raising reasons why some an idea or project will fail has limited value. Instead, contribute as a team player. Instead, ask the “how” question such as “How can we meet this deadline?” or “How can we address this customer situation?”
Action Tip: Ask “How” questions to focus on solutions and move the team forward.
6. Serve As The Meeting Scribe
In 2010, Scientific American reported research showing that eyewitness testimony is often highly flawed. Eyewitness reports are subject to bias and incorrect police procedures. Given these problems, why would you rely on memory in the workplace when important tasks are involved? That’s why it is important for meetings to have a scribe who takes note on decisions made, tasks assigned and deadlines given.
Action Tip: Before a meeting begins, ask the meeting organizer if there is a scribe assigned to take notes. If the answer is no, consider volunteering! Otherwise, much of the value generated in the meeting is at risk.
7. Report On Your Work
If nobody knows your work is complete, does it have value? This is not a Zen koan: it is a practical question to consider! If managers or team members are waiting for you to complete a task, they need to be made aware. Report to those who need to know when you complete a task and advise them of any issues they need to know about in order to keep moving.
Action Tip: Send a communication to others on the team when you complete work assignments.
Team Work Resources
Explore these team work resources to develop this important aspect of your professional skill-set. Even if you are an executive, you need to function in teams so this skill and attitude will always be important.
- Teamwork skills: being an effective group member. A resource from the University of Waterloo – it points out the importance of setting an atmosphere of trust for team work to occur.
- The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John C Maxwell. Maxwell is a widely respected leadership author who know that leaders (and aspiring leaders!) need team skills as well.
- Becoming a Team Player: Your Most Important Assignment. This HBR book chapter looks at the team player role from the perspective of ensuring the entire team works well.
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