Friday, April 22, 2005

[How to: TV] Be part of the team

The following is taken verbatim from Why teams don't work by Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley.

It is everyone's responsibility to create a team. Here are the characteristics of effective team members:

Goals. Interest. Conflict. Listening. Decisions. Differences. Ideas. Feedback. Accomplishments.

Having a commitment to goals. It is difficult to work enthusiastically towards an outcome if you don't know what the outcome is. The first thing good team members to is clarify what they're after - what their team goals and objectives are. With this clarified, good team members commit themselves to the outcome; whatever it takes (within ethical boundaries), they are willing to do.

Showing a genuine interest in other team members. People don't have to like each other to work together. That may be true, in the short term. But good team members develop a genuine interest in the well-being of other team members. Not as a team survival mechanism, but as a human bond. It may sound like small talk, but it's more caring: "How was your weekend?" "Is your child still sick?" "Is there anything I can do?"

Confronting conflict. Good team members can tell the difference between confrontation and conflict - between directness and having a chip on one's shoulder. The only way to discover and resolve differences with the team is to open up, acknowledge the disagreement, and negotiate a solution. Avoid the plague, but own up to conflict. As a matter of fact, effective team members intercede when other team members are in conflict, to help resolve the disagreement. Bad or weak team members turn their back on conflict and either ignore it, and hope it will disappear, or let the other team members battle it out, squandering precious team time and goodwill.

Listening empathically. Empathic, active listening is important for anyone, whether you are on a team or not. It is particularly important for open communication between effective team members. Empathic listening means being sensitive to not just the content of the message the other person is sending but to the emotion behind the message. Good listening means more than shutting up and waiting for your turn - it means getting into the other person's head and heart.

Practising inclusive decision-making. Good team members run their "first draft" decision by other team members before they pool the trigger. One never knows what additional inputs you may acquire that may make your tentative decision even better. Not only may you get additional information this way, but you have a communication device online that lets people know where your thoughts are headed - thus minimising surprises later.

Valuing individual differences. Effective team members look at differences as positive. They respect the opinions of others and view others' perspectives as pluses, not minuses. They figure out how to use the natural differences to benefit the team's outcomes and not as excuses to avoid working with each other.

Contributing ideas freely. Good team members don't hold back their ideas. When they have an opinion about something, they express it, even if it's just to support someone else's opinion. If you have an idea about the topic being discussed and you keep your mouth shut (very typical for the Midwest, where we are), you're not being an effective team member.

Providing feedback on team performance. Good teams develop a method for providing continuous feedback on how the team is working, what's going right, what's going wrong, and what to do about it. Effective team members also solicit feedback from other team members ("How'm I doing?"). No matter what formal performance feedback system their organisations provide, good teams develop methods for more frequent, real-time, relevant feedback on people, processes, team support structures, and outcomes. [See also 'Gung Ho'.]

Celebrating accomplishments. One of the first questions Harvey asks when doing teaming within an organisation is, "When was the last time you folks had a party?" If you haven't had a party lately, you haven't had a formal excuse to celebrate. Maybe your goals are long-term ones; it's hard to break off in the middle and celebrate. So - do it anyway. Effective teams find excuses to celebrate, usually related to the accomplishment of some shorter term outcome. Look for ways to lift the morale through celebration, both personal and professional.

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