Anum Shaheen, Navitus
August 28, 2011
Another day, another weekly review. I’m sitting in the conference room, the first one to arrive (how typical, can’t everyone be on time for once?). As the minutes drag by, the rest of the ‘team’ files in. Finally, we’re seated, and now wait for the Big B to walk in and take grace us with his presence.
The boss arrives, the meeting begins.
Numbers, trends, pitfalls, lapses…business as usual. Doesn’t anyone remember that great thank you letter I received from a key customer last week? Or that I successfully completed my training hours for the month? Or even…it was my birthday yesterday?! Tick tock, tick tock, now the meeting’s over, and everyone will return to their cubicles with their staplers and the rat race for who gets to leave by 6 will begin. Ugh! Why am I here?!’
Depressing isn’t it? And unfortunate, considering that this defines the typical work place, and attitude of most employees! And to this end, the one question that will ultimately arise is that does a situation like this result because of the employee, or because of the manager? Endless debates circle around this, and honestly it ends up in a ‘chicken or the egg’ type of conundrum! In the vast plethora of management scripture, there are several theories and models that managers use to boost teamwork – from staff retreats to story circles.
But still then, the question remains. What about you? What can you do as a team member to help facilitate the team building process, and integrate relationship building and teamwork into your work style?
It is said that a child grows up the day she stops saying ‘It got lost’ and instead says ‘I lost it’. A powerful truth – Responsibility and accountability are the marks of maturity. Similarly, the day that people stop pointing fingers and saying ‘it’s him or her or them’ and is ready to admit ‘maybe it’s me?’ is the day that they take the first step towards real self actualization, for the betterment of themselves and their teams! There is strength in numbers, and there you will find support in the people around you if you ask for it, and are truly prepared to give in return!
So as a member of a team, fresh or seasoned, here’s how you can start optimizing your role as the catalyst that drives everyone to TEAM UP and GROW!
1. Exercise Introspection: Before you work on influencing others, it is essential that you become more aware of yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the difficult questions, ‘Who am I?’, ‘Now that I think about it, where do I see myself in 5 years’? It’s also a good idea to conduct a personal SWOT analysis, and use the outcomes to create a self-development plan.
2. Boost your ability to read people: There’s a concept known as ‘Matching and Pacing’ – people tend to be either ‘Emotive’ or ‘Analytical’. Read up on these categories, and learn key behaviors associated with each. With practice, you’ll be able to identify these behaviors and use to them to learn more about your team, and build key relationships with the people around you. Remember, practice makes perfect!
3. Open up to people, and they will respond: When you learn to read people, it’ll be easier for you to build relationships with them by sharing personal stories or common interests. Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone has the confidence to tell it. Give people the opportunity to speak, their ‘5 minutes of fame’, and you will plant the seeds for bonds built on common understanding and trust!
4. Ask for support and advice: Once you have valuable new insights into your team members, you’ll be better aware of their strengths and experiences. Whenever you have a challenging assignment, or need advice, identify people in your team who would be able to help you. Pull out the flip charts and markers, or take over the white board and get others involved! This way you can actually help stimulate a cultural shift – individual problems and challenges can be overcome with group support and brain storming! By taking the first step, you can encourage others to do the same.
5. Be willing to offer advice and support in return: Be available to others in your team – a successful relationship is built on mutual exchange of support and advice. But by this, we don’t mean that you should bend over backwards either. It’s essential to prioritize – don’t be afraid to say ‘No’ when you need to complete tasks of your own. Be clear about your priorities, and also be respectful of others time.
6. Be aware and considerate of cultural/ethnic/religious diversity: Teams are becoming more and more cross-functional, and also more and more culturally and ethnically diverse. Be considerate towards the orientations and beliefs of others – make it a point to learn more about the backgrounds and value systems of others and appreciate them for the fresh perspectives and views they bring to the table. Remember, it is our differences that bring us closer.
7. Find a coach, and a coachee: Coaching and mentoring is a continuous process, and isn’t limited to just individuals of senior management. Find someone in your team to be your coach, and in turn be willing to coach others. Continuous learning will become a cultural norm!
8. Take responsibility and encourage others to do the same: Life isn’t always a bed of roses – there will be challenging times in any team. A culture of support and bonding will make these times easier to navigate, and at times the biggest favor you can do for your peers is admit to mistakes, not be afraid to holds others to account, and above all, be willing to MOVE ON, and encourage everyone to work towards a solution. That will ensure that everyone stays focused and motivated, which will encourage creative problem solving needed for success.
Whilst every team and context is different, it all comes down to people. Every individual is a blend of head, hand and heart. In your role as a member of a high performing team, take responsibility and learn how best to navigate this human trinity, and be a beacon for those around you. If we all take on this challenge together, to be the beacons behind which others will follow, there is no limit to what we can achieve!
There is no ‘I’ in team, but there is a ‘me’ (Hey, statements become cliche'd for a reason!). So think about what ‘I, me, myself’ is doing to team up and GROW!