5 Keys to Being an Outstanding Team Member
This post is courtesy of Maureen Metcalf (one of our thoughtLEADERS instructors). Enjoy her perspective. Here’s Maureen:
It is not enough to be an exceptional individual contributor; you must also work effectively with others. Even super heroes work together just like Batman and Robin.
A key differentiator for professional growth is how well you work with others. We can all think of times where we could have accomplished a task easier alone but still needed to work with others. We can probably also see where there was some benefit to the organization by our working with someone else, like they got to learn from us and from the experience.
I worked with a client who saw himself as the expert at everything he did. He was frustrated by working with teams because it got in the way of doing the real work and no one knew as much as he did. This team stuff slowed the work down and frustrated him. He also thought he should be promoted because he could certainly accomplish the work more effectively than anyone around him.
If only he knew and focused on the 5 key behaviors that would have made him a better team member.
From his perspective, he was forced to work for leaders who were not as competent as he was. From where he sat, his leaders had all kinds of stupid requests and changed their minds regularly. They could not pick a path and stick to it.
He was a great individual contributor but got a complete FAIL for team effectiveness and it was getting in his way. He was not moving forward and others disliked working with him.
He remembered when he liked going to work but that time had long passed. He was frustrated and unhappy and did not know where to turn to fix things other than find a “better” company with “smarter leaders” to work for.
What he missed was HE was the problem.
He would not likely find a company where he could show poor personal skills and be surrounded by great leaders who saw every situation the same way he did.
He could have been much more successful if he had the willingness to learn the 5 key components that impact our ability to work with others effectively. These skills can be learned and practiced. Had he done so, he could have been a stronger contributor and a better leader. These key skills are:
Self awareness – I know my strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and impact on others. I know when to ask for help.
Self management – I manage how I behave considering how it will impact others. I act professionally even when frustrated.
Motivation – I do what is required even if it will not be an immediate benefit to me.
Empathy – I understand others have emotions and I try to respond to what they need to be successful.
Social skills – I build rapport with others to move the project forward to accomplish its goals.
After developing solid technical skills, we are measured on our ability to accomplish tasks with and through others. Our education often stopped with learning how to do the technical aspects of the job without teaching how to work well with others.
Some call these soft skills and discount them because they are “touchy feely.” The research indicates that you must be technically competent and also interpersonally competent to advance in a leadership role.
Perhaps if he had taken the time and effort to build these capabilities within himself, he would have been much more satisfied with his work environment.
How are you relating to others? Are you working on a team that is not as effective as you would like? What are you doing to contribute to the dysfunction? What can you do to improve?
– Maureen Metcalf at thoughtLEADERS, LLC
Maureen is the President of Metcalf & Associates, Inc., bringing 23 years of business experience to the table as she helps professionals grow well beyond their own expectations. She is recognized as an effective leader who demonstrates operational skills coupled with the ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth and sustainability. She’s also a member of the thoughtLEADERSteam. Read more of her work on her blog.
Great post, what happens when someone who is not an outstanding team member ends up managing employes? In these cases, the manager not only sees peers as not meeting their standard but also direct reports are taking a beating.
Great post and I will RT it on Twitter for others to value. The 5 points you mention are key. There has to be a #6 and that is great communication skills.
Individuals can have the 5 and still fall far short if they do not communicate well with others. In 20 years I have heard many struggling leaders claim they were empathetic, aware, etc… — yet they were poor communicators and therefore few knew their strengths.
Here's one of my people-skills posts on communication to add to this discussion:
3 Solid Communication Tips for Great People-Skills
All the best,
Thanks for your comments!
Joe: One of the real challenges we face is helping people have a strong self awareness (those who are ineffective understand they are ineffective). There are solid assessment tools to help and absent data and absent self awareness, the suffering poor managers, leaders and team leaders cause will continue. The good news is the more people are aware, the more we can help others become aware.
Kate: Thanks for your comment and retweet. I absolutely agree that strong communication is critical to success.
Great post and backs up a course I just completed on working as a manager/leader of people. I myself have gone from being a technical expert (great on my own) to being in a management style and agree that being good at communication is probably the thing I have to work on most.
I guess my advantage is that I know where I need to improve and am open to help and guidance. All the key points you mentioned really relate to how you respect and value your fellow team members. A while ago in my career, I decided to try and make myself redundant, by sharing and passing on knowledge. I guess in many ways this made me a valuable team member.
Now as a manager/leader I try to do the same for the crew that work with me. These points are essential wherever you sit in the hierarchy of an organisation because you are always part of a team!
What is your Twitter name? I would like to follow you there as well as on your blog. We share a strong interest in leadership and teamwork.
FYI: Here's one more of my posts on teamwork skills:
Spring Training Exercises to Build the Best Teamwork
I welcome your comments!
I agree with your list of behaviors that impact a team members effectiveness in a group.
How can managers foster skill or at least awareness of these behaviors in employees?
Thanks for your question about fostering awareness and skills. For awareness I would recommend:
1. Leadership assessment – probably a 360 so the individual can get feedback from multiple points of view and angles
2. Feedback from the boss
3. Feedback from the team maybe in a team evaluation of their effectiveness and opportunities to improve
Fostering skills will depend on where the opportunities (deficiencies fall):
1. Class or workshop focusing on skill building
2. Organizational rewards to reinforce the desired behavior and consequences for demonstrating behaviors that adversely impact the team accomplishing its goals
3. Team leader/member practice new skills. We practice sports but often forget that the same level of practice is required to learn skills like empathy.
4. Pick up a book that offers tools and techniques such as Fifth Discipline Field book by Peter Senge and other authors.
This list should give you a solid start for making a change.