Everywhere I look, the word team has been incorporated into the way that we do business. More and more, companies are assigning teams to do the work that used to be done by individuals. Why? It’s simple, teams produce the best results. All of us have had some sort of team experience whether it is through school, work, sports, or volunteering. From a young age, we have always been taught, “there’s no I in team.” Well, I’m here to tell you that there is-only with a slight catch. Now, I’m not suggesting that the team is all about you, but there are some things you can do as a team member to ensure success for yourself and for the group.
Conflict is a Good Thing
One of the big issues that plagues teams is conflict. Many people have a fear of conflict and will try to avoid it at all costs. Too often, people will sit through a meeting and agree with every solution that is suggested because they are afraid to voice a different idea or point of view. This problem is evident when a strategy session that should last all day lasts only an hour. We all need to remember that it is our duty as team members to make sure everyone’s opinions are heard, and each issue is addressed in full. Conflict gives us the opportunity to take a close look at the issues and ask questions that help us develop quality solutions.
Compromise is a Lose-Lose
If you think back on the compromises you’ve made you’ll realize that most of the time no one got what they actually wanted. When we compromise, each person forgoes his or her own needs or opinions for the sake of the group. It’s like a couple who argues over which comedy movie to watch, and ends up suffering through a horror movie because it’s the only one they could agree on. Now how does this relate to teamwork? The next time you are faced with a difficult decision at work, take a minute to analyze the situation. Try to collaborate with the group you are working with so that you can incorporate each person’s needs and ideas into the solution. You will find that this method of conflict management will greatly enhance your team’s cohesion, and lead to more effective solutions. This may take a little bit more time and effort than a compromise, but the long-term benefits will be well worth it.
Always be on the Lookout
No, someone is not going to pop out from behind your desk, and grab you if you aren’t a good team member. However, your co-workers and superiors will definitely notice if you start to become a distraction for the team. The easiest way to deflect negative attention is to separate business from your personal life. Obviously, we all conduct business with our personal emotions in mind, but we must draw the line on issues such as religion, politics, race, gender, and sexual preference. While these topics are okay to discuss at home, they should never enter the team environment. It only takes one comment, and other group members will shut down for the rest of the project. The best team members I’ve worked with are people who can self-monitor themselves, and leave their personal feelings and opinions out of the work place. They made me feel comfortable about asserting myself, and they were the first people to notice if boundaries were crossed. Master this skill and you will find yourself admired by your colleagues, and in more team leadership roles.
The Bottom Line
Some key concepts to remember:
1. Conflict can be your friend, don’t avoid it.
2. Work to satisfy everyone’s needs, don’t just compromise.
3. Monitor your personal emotions, and focus on the task.
Teamwork should be an enjoyable and beneficial experience for everyone involved. As we begin our next team project, let’s all focus on strengthening our team skills to benefit the company, the client, and ourselves.