What is a team anyway? What purpose of a team can’t be accomplished alone? What impact does being a team player have upon your individual career? If you are not sure about the answers, you need to become acquainted with the seven deadly sins that can destroy your team bit even before it gets to the huddle.
What does the word team mean to you? Webster’s defines it as a number if persons associated together in work or activity. Makes sense, right? That would define all of us as team members of one sort or another. By that definition, we may not even know we are part of the team.
Well, sooner or later you are going to be asked to serve on a team. At that point you will know you are a team member and it will be important to understand the team rules so that you don’t commit the any one of the seven deadly sins of team building.
Look at the team from a personal perspective when evaluating these seven sins. Make it personal. Ask yourself what’s in it for me. It’s a team right? Stop and think. If you don’t get something personal out of it why are on the team anyway?
Consider this little league analogy. One kid is on the team because he loves baseball and wants to play. Another kid is on the team because his dad loves it and wants him to play. The latter boy has to make the best of it. If you don’t have a choice, you better make the best of it! To go back the personal part of the team, ensure membership enhances (and does not detract) from your career objectives.
Sin #1 Not understanding the purpose of the team.
The team is not just a bunch of people getting together to make everyone’s life easier. There is a mission and there are goals in mind when setting up the team. Make sure the mission is clearly articulated. Have it committed to paper so you can revisit regularly. Make sure you clearly understand the objectives and are personally aligned with the overall objective. Now is not the time to be a yes person. If you have reservations about what the purpose of the team is then clarify them before the team moves too far along. Make sure the goals are accomplishable. There is nothing worse than a team brought together to accomplish something that cannot be achieved.
Sin #2 Not contributing your share.
The team by its very nature should divide up the workload. You must be prepared to do your part. There is a fine line between distributing the workload evenly and sharing the responsibility. Clear ground rules should be established in advance to address who does what and when. This also includes the reporting mechanism during the process. If reports are due, make sure to prepare adequately. Winging-it is not an acceptable option for team performance. It’s also up to you to make the other team members do their share. If the workload becomes unbalanced then people will start to feel put upon or resentful.
Sin #3 Not attending meetings.
It’s always hard to schedule meetings. If you have a conflict, notify the team early. Even if you cannot stay the entire time, it’s best to make an appearance even for a short time. If you are expected to contribute at this meeting send your notes to the team leader in advance. It’s important to determine up front when a meeting is scheduled for and its purpose. There is nothing more disheartening to a team’s efforts than sitting through a non-productive meeting. Make sure the number of meetings you miss is nominal. You don’t want other team members to think you are not doing your share.
Sin #4 Not speaking up.
The value of the team is having opinions from every point of view. Balance is what makes the team most effective. You must be prepared to state your opinions even if they might be contrary to those of others. You are not trying to win a popularity contest. You are out to achieve measurable goals. Different perspectives help the team retain their objectivity. The teams should not consist of yes men-what’s the point? Speaking up does not mean speaking out. Express your opinion and stick by it, but don’t turn it into an area of contention.
Sin #5 Not supporting the team efforts.
This isn’t grade school. You may not like every outcome of the team efforts; however, you as a team member are obligated to support the team as a whole. It’s OK to have differences of opinion but keep them within the team. The team must be a cohesive unit in its message and performance. You can state your opinions to the group, but that’s all. Don’t badmouth the outcomes, the results or the team itself to anyone else. In this instance, it’s about the group functioning as a whole not about your personally.
Sin #6 Not handling conflict right away.
There are bound to be differences of opinions and disagreements. Make sure that you handle these in a business like manner. Discuss the issues and then move on to the next issue. Don’t get bogged down in arguing small points and lose the impetus of the overall objectives. Know the limits of the team’s responsibilities too. There are some things that team cannot change so establish those rules up front.
Sin #7 Not taking credit where credit is due.
Sure it’s a team and you are a part of it but guess what. It’s OK to take credit for ideas and success. This is a part of the learning and growing process. Utilize it to your advantage.
There are many ways to toot your horn and still be inclusive of the team. The secret to being a “shining star” and have others sing your praises is to improve your visibility within the team.
There are several ways to do this while maintaining a team player status. This is a soft sell approach. When someone thinks of your team, you want to be positioned in the forefront. You should be the #1 team player. There are a myriad of ways to accomplish this objective; it just takes a little additional initiative and creativity on your part.
As a team is formed do one or more of the following:
1. Volunteer to be the team leader. This entails getting to know everyone. It might be a thankless job, but remember, yours will be the first when people talk about the team. That being the case, your name will be first on reports or documents coming from the team.
Caution: If the team’s efforts are not going well, remember that your name still appears first.
2. Volunteer to take the notes-not just secretary responsibilities. Be the conduit to the ongoing efforts of the group. All communications funnel through you. This has endless possibilities to improve your visibility. Every memo should have your name on it and include your contact information. You should include your tag line (not just note taker/secretary but something memorable that will remind people about you and your role within the project).
3. Volunteer for the high profile assignments. As new teams are being formed, seek out those that will provide the most visibility. The best projects are those that have hot buttons or are pet projects of the boss. Many times this enables you to have an up close and personal encounter with them. Use the opportunity wisely.
4. Offer to write an article for the company newsletter about the progress of the team’s project. Make sure everyone is included. Quotes from individuals work great in establishing a bond between you and your team members. You can also ask for opinions outside the scope of the project. This is a great door opener with those who are higher up in the organization.
Note: You are the author/editor. You can contact anyone you want to about the project. Ensure that you are well prepared.
5. Set up the listserv of the email communications for the group. This ensures that you have everyone’s email and info. Periodically, send a note to ensure all communications are being received and how the listserv process works. When people have a question, they will come to you for the answer.
6. Seek out PR ops for the team whether interviews or articles result in everyone having a chance to participate. Just be sure everyone recognizes the opportunity originated with you.
Tip: Share the wealth, but don’t hog the limelight when it comes to PR. The more individuals you can credit for the success, the more will come back to you with thanks and support.
7. Submit for awards, commendation or honors as a result of the projects outcome. Everyone loves a winner and if you got the ball rolling the company will thank you for it. Maximize the award with press release articles, etc. Just ensure your name is included.
8. Plan to speak at an upcoming conference about the project. Volunteer to be the one that does the presentation. Even though it’s a team effort everyone will remembers the presenter.
Making your star shine as a team member is only limited by your imagination. Think about more creative soft-sell ways to improve your visibility. Just because you are a team member doesn’t mean you can’t outshine the rest.
Remember it’s your career and you get out of it what you put into it.
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