How to work in a team
What is teamwork, why is it important, how can you become a “good” team-worker or is it just about being nice to people?
Teamwork has a general meaning that is used to describe desirable behaviours and attitudes of people co-operating together in normal everyday work. Teamwork is also used to refer to a group of people who are put together to achieve a specific objective or task. In either example there are some common guidelines that will help anyone at work become more effective at teamwork.
Teams can be composed of people who all work together in their normal daily work, perhaps for the same manager or they can come from completely separate departments into the team as a full-time or part-time temporary assignment.
So what should you expect when asked to join a team?
Rule 1: Objective - make sure you understand the overall objective of the team and the reason why you are being asked to join the team and your role in the team. How will success be measured, what criteria will be used? Teams must know what needs to be done and by what timescale then a plan can be created.
Rule 2: Co-operation – by working well together the members of the team combine their skills, knowledge and experience to produce a better result than working alone. This means that respecting other team members and their points of view is important. Find out about the other members of the team, why are they in the team, what is their specialist skill and personal role in the team?
Rule 3: Communication – team members can be located in the same place, but it is equally likely the team are geographically remote from each other; they can be in different countries with different languages and cultures. Accurate, brief and clear communications of the team’s activities is vital to success. Accepting that miscommunication is likely to happen and checking that the entire team understands what is being discussed or written about is essential.
Rule 4: Equality – teams will have members of varying seniority. However, each person irrespective of seniority is chosen to be in the team because they have a specific task to carry out and often have a specialist skill that makes them the best person to complete that task. On that basis each team member should respect the others as “experts” in their own area of expertise.
Rule 5: Team leadership – the team leader has a number of key responsibilities. First, and most important, is to ensure that the team’s objective is clearly defined, that each team member knows what they have to do and by when. Working processes, communications and meetings must be clear as well as escalation criteria when something goes wrong. Finally, the leader must ensure a co-operative working atmosphere exists between all the members of the team. Disputes and tensions will arise and the leader needs to solve these together with support from the team members. The leader should also communicate successes and recognise team members for their contributions to embed a positive working atmosphere in the team.
Rule 6: Problem solving. Problems will happen and, under pressure to deliver results, it is easy to blame others. Effective teams do not do this, however. Instead they expect problems and adopt a calm analytical approach to identifying the causes and agree how to solve them. They always look forwards to a successful completion of the team’s objectives and are ready to adopt new working practices to avoid repetition of the same problems.
Rule 7: Assertion vs. aggression. Assertive behaviour, which is healthy and natural, is accepting that each team member has the right to have their view listened to and respected. Good team behaviour, where there are differing views, is to listen carefully to other team members and make sure you understand their view by repeating it back to them. Then you can explain your own point of view. Aggressive behaviour, which is unhealthy, happens when views are disregarded and people are personally criticised. The team leader should oversee a healthy assertive team way of working and stop aggression damaging a successful end result. Finally, team members have to accept that whilst they can try and change someone else’s point of view, in some cases they must accept this is not possible.
Rule 8: Change. Change will be a significant factor affecting the team. Events happen that cause the original team plan to need to be updated. Problems can arise that cause the team members to have their tasks altered - even the overall team objective can get changed. Successful teams accept change is a constant factor and are ready to adapt their plan and activities, keeping achievement of the overall objective their point of focus.
By following these eight rules anyone can become an effective member of a team working co-operatively together to achieve a successful end result.
*This article was written by the team at LET'S-BEGIN, a new and innovative provider of easy-access online training courses that specialise in helping you to get the job that you want - from application to job offer - and to make a success of your first 90 days in employment. Uniquely, LET’S-BEGIN includes podcasts and the ability to make, store and revisit your own notes, which turns online training into a reusable source of information and knowledge to empower success in the workplace.