Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

There are lots of I's in 'team'

In today's workplace, career success often depends on being a positive, contributing member of a like-minded group

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The idea of employees working in a "team" has been with us since the early 1930s when the so-called Hawthorne experiments found that productivity increased when workers felt supported and involved. It was also during this time period that more attention was paid to the influence of organizational culture and the interaction between supervisors and employees. Over the years, the lessons learned from these early studies have continued to impact our work world to such an extent that "teamwork" is part of everyone's vocabulary. In fact, most organizations today look for reference to teamwork on new candidate resumés.

However, talking about teamwork and actually building effective teams with healthy relationships are two entirely different things. That's because in spite of the fact people know the theory, taking a group of individuals with different skills and perspectives and building it into a cohesive interdependent unit with a common goal and vision is a colossal task.

In addition, while it may take years of hard work on behalf of all participants to reach a high performing stage of teamwork, it only takes one individual with a poor attitude to throw the team off balance. And believe me, when a team is out of balance because of one individual's behaviour, team members can actually physically feel the difference.

Teamwork has become such an essential skill in today's work world that career success depends on it. In other words, each individual must take personal responsibility and be held accountable for contributing to their team. What then are the qualities of an effective team player? The following 12 key team behaviours will be key to your career success:

-- Self awareness -- Effective team players know and understand their personal skills and capabilities and what motivates them and they can put this to good work on the team. They also have strong personal control of their emotions and deal with their stresses rather than directing blame upon others.

-- Positive attitude -- Good team members are always able to look at life from a positive perspective. No problem is too big to tackle. When they see others who are experiencing low self-esteem or low morale, they are effective in pulling their teammates out of the doldrums. They are positive and happy people to be around and create energy for the team.

-- Sense of co-operation -- An effective team player is someone who doesn't think twice about reaching out to help their colleagues. In their mind, there's no such thing as "it's not my job." In spite of the fact they may not agree with someone's perspective, they still work with each other to accomplish the group goal.

-- Proven reliability -- Highly productive teams are made up of individuals who accept responsibility for their role and do what they say they were going to do. You can count on this type of team member to take on their fair share of work and to meet their commitments. Rarely does a supervisor have to follow up or chase after work that is late.

-- Eager communicator -- Individuals who see the value of free-flow communication and sharing information back and forth with their colleagues are seen as valuable contributors to a team. They are typically good listeners who provide honest and timely feedback.

-- Effective problem solvers -- Team members who can quickly move into problem-solving mode rather than complaining about something are much more effective and valued. These individuals are systematic thinkers who help other team members to diagnose issues, brainstorm potential solutions and then recommend alternatives and options.

-- Personal commitment -- Individuals who are visibly committed to their team don't put conditions on their participation. They take personal responsibility, they don't blame others and they provide support to their colleagues as needed. These individuals view their team as one entity and show their commitment through regular attendance at meetings and through consistent personal effort.

-- Caring for people -- This is one of the most important attributes of a good team player. Individuals who care for their colleagues are sensitive to their needs, they show respect and consideration. They reach out to others and show appreciation for the effort put in by everyone.

-- Constructive feedback -- Effective team players will speak up, share their ideas and provide feedback to colleagues that is constructive and helpful. They are skilled at providing objective observations and comments that move the team forward on their goals.

-- Assertive and proactive -- Individuals who take personal responsibility to be assertive and proactive take the bull by the horns and make things happen. They set goals for themselves rather than waiting to be told what to do. They come prepared for meetings and share their thoughts when appropriate. They are upfront with their ideas rather than gossiping behind the back of their team members.

-- Active listener and collaborator -- effective team members have excellent listening skills and can quickly extract the facts from a conversation. They are also very effective at facilitating group discussion and ensuring that everyone's voice is heard while driving the discussion toward consensus.

-- Learning approach -- Individuals who tackle each task and project from a learning perspective take a positive approach to everything they do. They reach out and share and/or they do not hesitate to ask for help. There is absolutely no sense of arrogance in anything they do and they freely engage in two-way communication with their colleagues.

Teamwork is such an important factor in today's workplace that no individual can ignore this critical skillset. In fact, future career success depends on it. As well, if individuals want to progress in their career, their teamwork skills will need to become much more sophisticated. For those who strive to be team leaders, they will need to build their skills around understanding individual motivation, how to influence others and how to build a culture of high performance.

In today's work world, teamwork is seen as a key part of organizational productivity. Yet, teamwork represents so much more than a trendy statement or cliché on a resumé. Teamwork requires the right attitude, plain hard work and consistency on the part of all participants. If you sat down right now and assessed your team, where would you stand?

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed., is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2013 H1

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