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Teamwork—Making a Contribution

Most tasks cannot be done in isolation. It takes a number of people, working together, to satisfy internal and external customers. Each person is important, and if anyone fouls up, the entire team and its processes are impacted. Here are some ideas to help your team perform at the highest level:

  1. Develop a team mentality. Think "we," not "me."

  2. Be open to the ideas of your teammates. No one person has a monopoly on good ideas. Each idea can be built on until it becomes viable. In fact, the greater the contribution by all team members, the higher the chances of a successful implementation, as buy-in will be assured.

  3. Be respectful of others. Listen to their ideas. Don't cut them off. Listen to be influenced. Think about why you should be influenced rather than why the idea won't work.

  4. Be approachable. When people come to you, project openness through your voice and body language. Smile. Lean forward. Maintain eye contact. Ask open-ended questions. Also, thank people for sharing their ideas with you.

  5. Be helpful. Offer assistance when you see others being overwhelmed with work or unable to solve a problem. Chances are you will build up goodwill that you can draw on when you are under the gun.

  6. Be a role model. Behave the way you expect others to behave. But have minimal expectations that others will follow. If they do — great; if they don't, simply feel good about your role.

  7. Accept others as they are. You can't change people. You can change only your behaviour towards them.

  8. Avoid rewarding people for things they do that annoy you. Laughing at stupidity at team meetings, for example, will simply serve to encourage the dysfunctional behaviour. However, if the person does something you appreciate, let him know.

  9. Celebrate your team's achievements. This will encourage cohesiveness and pride in what you are doing. For example, if your team has reached a new plateau in its performance, bring baked goods to your next meeting.

  10. Avoid territorialism. Too much pride in a team can lead to counter-productive behaviour that undermines other teams. Your loyalty is first to your organization and second to your team, not the other way around.

  11. Play a positive role at team meetings. The meetings are a great opportunity to communicate, solve problems, develop plans, and make decisions. They are important for the effective running of the team. You will make the meetings more effective if you

    • volunteer for a role at the meeting, such as secretary, recorder, or timekeeper;

    • stick to the topic;

    • avoid interrupting others;

    • avoid dominating the discussion;

    • encourage others to share their ideas;

    • avoid repeating ideas;

    • volunteer for action items.

  12. Share information readily. In fact, over-communicate — people should never be able to accuse you of hiding or withholding information.

  13. Let people know if you're not happy. Don't sweep issues under the carpet. Deal with issues professionally, so as not to make more or bigger problems than actually exist.

  14. When dealing with problems, avoid finger-pointing. Instead, deal with the issue assertively. This requires that you:

    • Make the problem yours. Use the "I" word rather than the "you" word.

    • Let people know how you feel. For example, start off by saying "I'm really angry when this or that happens."

    • Get agreement to the way you feel. Say, "Can you see why I'm upset?"

    • Ask others who are involved how they can help you solve the problem. You should never tell them what to do, since you will "own" the solution and they will not.

    • Listen to their solutions and then thank them for helping you.

  15. If you are not sure where the team is headed, create your own vision. Share it with others, particularly your leader. Determine how valid your vision really is.

  16. Train others. While being a specialist adds to your value on the team, it also makes the team vulnerable if you are away or transferred. Offer to teach others your skills.

  17. Learn other jobs. You can increase your value by being able to take over for others who are away. Don't make people feel threatened by demanding that they show you what they do. Simply offer to help if they intend to be away, so they won't be overloaded on their return.


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