Let’s Talk About Teamwork

Teamwork is a muscle that has be exercised and practiced regularlyThat’s right.  Let’s talk about teamwork.  You can be a team or you can be a group of people.  Guess who has higher success rates on projects?  Teams.  Do you know why?  Because a team  practices communication, respect, and has a combined group effort towards clear goals.  A group of people are just that, a group.  There is no goal, poor communication, and no respect.

Communication

A team communicates.  The members all speak with each other.  They practice effective communication.  I stress practice, because teamwork’s a muscle, like your biceps.  They communicate about timing.  They communcate about roles – who’s doing what.  They meet regularly to do this.  They give each other feedback that builds for success.  Even during critique they balance the bad with the good.  They recognize each other’s roles and give credit where it is due.  They learn how to agree.  That doesn’t mean they think each other has the right answer. It means they are agreeing to carry the conversation forward  towards the shared goal.  That means they have to listen to each other.  Another muscle that has to be exercised.  Repeat back what you just heard the other person say.  Paraphrase it.  Listen, agree to what you heard, contribute.  Repeat back what you just heard the other person say.  Paraphrase it.

Respect

Respect is vital to a team in the long run.  If you don’t show each other respect, you may do ok, but you’ll never be optimum.  You always just be baseline.  Respect is like the grease to slide you forward.  It helps harmonize you to each other.  It reinforces roles, expectations.  It builds trust.  If you are not trusted, people will always hold back.  They will never give you 100%.  They won’t communicate well with you.   You have to show respect.  If you show respect, you will be shown respect in return.  Maybe not by that specific person, but by others.  Show it in your actions and body language.  Show it in your tone of voice, the words you choose.  Don’t interrupt.  Don’t lie.  Give credit where credit is due.  Recognize seniority.  Recognize good work.  Showing respect is also being able to point out weaknesses.  People point each others weaknesses out of respect.  This is tricky.  You have to be balanced.  Bring attention to strengths as well.  State why it’s a weakness.  Offer suggestions on how to strengthen it.  This should not come from a place of ego.

A Shared Goal

You can communicate respectfully all day and be respectful, but if you do not have a clear defined goal to be working towards, then you’re not a team.  A team works towards something.  A team has a mission and comes up with the steps to get there.  The roles are allocated.  A team has to know where it’d going.  What it is doing, and preferably why.  As design professor Gail Mitchell’s research points out – it works towards those goals cooperatively, using time productively and effectively, meeting regularly to check on status and to make sure everyone is continuing to move in the right direction.

If you practice these three core principles, you will have a solid team with an increased percentage of success.    If you don’t, then good luck to you.