Five Simple Rules For Becoming A World Class Teammate
So simple in theory, so difficult in practice
More and more often, employees are expected to contribute to the performance and success of their work teams. While it sounds great on paper, it isn't all that easy to work in a team, since often team members are different in style, attitude, commitment and work ethic. If you are a work team member, supervise, manage or lead a team, take a good look at these tips and hints which will make it easier for team members to contribute more productively to their teams, and decrease friction among team members.
Stop The Blaming Cycle
Often teams get bogged down in blaming members when things go wrong. As a team member you can do two things to stop this wasteful and destructive team behavior. First, eliminate blaming language you may use. Replace blaming and finger-pointing comments or questions with a focus on solving problems, or preventing problems. Second, if other team members get into the blaming cycle, step in and "turn" the conversation back to a constructive approach. For example, here's a good phrase: "Ok, maybe we could save some time here by trying to ensure that the problem doesn't happen again, so what can we do to prevent it next time?"
Focus On The Present And Future
This is related to the blaming cycle. Don't dwell on the past. Use the past (successes and team failures) to help the team determine where they need to go to improve. You can't change the past -- you can only use it to learn from.
Stop Back Channel Talk
Talking about a team member in private with another team members usually involves a blaming process. While sometimes it's good to vent frustration about a fellow team mate, you shouldn't be doing it within the team. It's counter productive, and harmful. Stop doing it unless you have a specific, constructive reason for doing so.
Take responsibility for your behavior and the results that your team produces, but NOT the behavior of your team mates. When you take responsibility for another member's actions, you will tend to want to change your team mate, something that often creates dissension.
Focus On YOUR Contributions
Don't spend your time thinking about or telling team mates what THEY should be doing for the team. Think about what you can contribute, and how you can contribute more effectively. Then do it. For example, if you have a great suggestion, don't dump it in the group with the expectation that someone else will implement it. You offer to do it...after all it's your suggestion.
Establishing Your Own Group Principles
Some teams spend a little bit of time establishing their own custom designed guidelines for team members. That's a good idea provided your team is open to a brief discussion to identify teammates expectations about how members should act.
You can start the open discussion by presenting the five principles above to the group as examples of the kind of rules that can be generated.
Here are some starting questions that can be used:
- What are our expectations about how we treat each other?
- What five principles (and just five) can we use to guide our team decisions and actions?
- Are there principles not in the original five that are more important than any of the five above?
To promote buy-in on the part of team members, it's important to get input from every team member.
An alternative to doing everything orally is to ask each person to identify five principles for group behavior on paper, then submit anonymously. This can be used as a basis for whole group discussion without "putting people on the spot".