Look at a lot of job postings and you’ll see amongst the skills and job requirements, a great number indicate the employer is looking to hire a team player. Many job applicants are smart enough to know that it’s in their own interests to make sure that they then put the words, ‘team player’, on their resume. This makes it difficult for employers to tell the difference between true team players and those who either prefer to work alone, or work with others grudingly, or only when they know the boss is watching.
Far too many organizations share a common problem in managing the talent they have. Managers in some businesses group their workers in teams on an organizational flow chart and expect the magic to happen. They hold meetings for the people in those teams, and wonder sometimes why people who work well alone, don’t excel when working together. Putting people in groups and calling them a team doesn’t of its own accord accomplish this however.
Great teams are composed of ordinary people who understand that all members have skills, experiences and personal qualities that when shared, benefit each member of the team. Great teams evolve when each member willingly contributes their talents, are supported by their teammates, and in turn support them. Without a willingness to appreciate the talents of each member, a team is doomed from the start to simply be a collection of people on paper, working under a person of higher rank. They will either be mediocre at best or poor performers at the worst; failing to achieve the greatness the teams potential has.
Management and workers both have responsibilities when it comes to making great teams. Managers assemble the talent, going out and finding desirable experience, skills, and above all, personal characteristics in the people they hire who truly embrace working together to achieve the best results. Employees have a responsibility to appreciate that the sum of their collective talents will take them farther as a group than any one of them working alone.
The problem for Managers and those that hire is that during an interview, most people will indicate they work well in teams and will cite previous experience of having been on one. Managers are challenged to assemble talent that will fill organizational needs, and complement the talents of their existing workforce. The question then becomes, “Who can I bring onboard whose style, attitude, work ethic, daily practices and willingness to work collaboratively and cooperatively blend with or spur a change in the team where I’m attempting to fill a need?” You have to appreciate their predicament because in job interviews, people are on their best behaviour and we all know that many people will say what they believe is what they feel will get them hired, even if it’s not entirely true. Tell an employer you work best alone when they want a team player and you may get passed over.
Collaboration is one key requirement to success when it comes to team performance. This means sharing ideas with your team, but respecting the responsibility to listen to the ideas of your fellow teammates – without formulating in your mind what your response will be while you’re listening. Why? Because when you’re getting ready to launch your response, you’re not truly listening wth the goal to understanding what you’re hearing, nor are you processing the merit behind others’ thoughts.
Good team players recognize the value in the experience of their teammates. While you might all be sitting around a table here and now, HOW you all got to this point is unique to each member, and all the failures and successes each member has had, have shaped them into the people they are now. There’s a lot of rich history each member brings to the table; a lot of skill to be mined, shared and tapped into to improve the performance of this group as a whole.
I once gave a co-worker a stick drawing of two people, with one figure holding a line representing the back of the other which was missing. I wrote the caption, “I’ve got your back” on it. That simple drawing I was surprised to find affixed to their cubicle wall for as long as I worked with her. It was reassurance that one of her co-workers would support her if whenever needed. I tell you this; the feeling was mutual. In her actions as well as words, she showed support, checking in with me periodically to ask how I was doing and meaning what she said. In small and large actions, we gelled because we both got it – backing each other up, lending a hand, bothering to care and wanting us each to succeed. In short, we respected each other and respected ourselves enough to be great team players, and we were.
If you really want to work on a great team YOU have to make an investment in your teammates. Coming together just in team meetings and then working in cliches or isolation at other times limits a teams success. And it’s only when an organization has every team working together that you have a truly phenomenal group both in name and performance.
What’s been your own experience? Have you had the pleasure of working as a valued member of an awesome team? What did that look like?