Applying Individual Knowledge for the Good of the Team

Team working at a table.

We all struggle with the new code word—team—but what does it mean? How can you be an effective team member when it seems no one else knows either?

Many of us have been in situations where we are supposed to be a team member but the team isn’t working. What can you do personally? Here are some ideas:

Clarify your purpose. Understanding why you are working together can be grounding for all involved. Taking the time to reflect on it can help focus your efforts and move them away from the various individual turf issues that can mire a group’s progress.

Clarify roles and process. Make sure everyone knows what role they have in the process of developing and implementing your strategy. Who’s doing what? What about what we are doing is working? What isn’t?

Identify and appreciate differences in styles. This is a pivotal one. Everyone has their own interpersonal behavioral patterns, which define their strengths and limitations. Some very successful people will intuitively understand this and leverage it to their best result.

The rest of us tend to feel that everyone should be like us. In time, if others make progress, they will become like us, and we can then like them better.

In reality, there are some important differences in people. Understanding others and ourselves can help us create trust and even allow us to feature our differences to achieve goals.

Understanding trust and behavioral styles

Teams need trust to develop unity. What is not commonly understood is that trust has several aspects. These include:

·         Reliability—Doing what we say we’ll do.

·         Aceptance—Unconditionally accepting others.

·         Openness—Telling it like it is.

·         Consistency—Being predictable

Because of our own behavioral styles, we will be better at some than at others. Teams, like people, go through various stages of development, which impact on activities in a fairly comprehensive way.

First, we come together by:

·         FORMING activities, a “honeymoon” of niceties to become acquainted as a team.

·         STORMING is when we move to the serious business of getting our needs and goals met. Positioning for roles and priorities typically occurs and can be uncomfortable. This stage is constructive if participants are direct and honest and use the conflict to create group priorities and goals and clarify their tasks and strategies. Teams can get stuck here if communications are unclear and agendas are not expressed.

·         NORMING stage will occur as the group defines how things get done and who does what. On a basketball team, this is the time when everyone starts to understand how points are made and on excellent teams, there is interplay of strengths rather than just one “star.”

·         PERFORMING is when the goals and roles are clear, and synchronicity, harmony and effectiveness result.

Knowing these stages can help you see where your team is and to recognize the role of constructive conflict and clear communications.

Overall, developing a team is a team effort but challenging yourself to hone your own skills will be a strong catalyst for others.

Reprinted, with permission, from the Chicago Tribune.