“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
You graduate with your degree, free at last from those dreaded group projects, only to find that, well, work is a group project (or more likely an ongoing series of group projects).
The good news is now you’re getting paid for them.
Effective, high-performing teams are in such high demand these days, in fact, that many employers list “ability to work effectively as part of a team” among their most desired employee characteristics. Needless to say, you want to be able to mention your strong team-participation skills when interviewing for a job, but you also want to actually be a great team member, able to contribute your skills in a way that boosts the overall effectiveness of any team you’re part of. The following five tactics will get you there.
Team members have to be able to rely on each other. That means they need to know that if you commit to something, you’ll follow through, meet deadlines, and produce whatever is needed at a high level of quality. (And if, for any reason, you’ll not be able to make a deadline, a great team member lets everyone know immediately about the delay, and when completion can be expected.)
As basic as this seems, great team members actively listen to each other’s comments, questions, and issues in order to fully understand all of the potential issues that may derail (or enhance) a project. If team meetings end up being nothing more than verbal power plays between a couple of key participants, the entire team loses an opportunity to perform at a high level.
Ability to support team decisions
Because it’s made up of unique individuals with specific skills and points of view, a team necessarily will be dealing with lots of different opinions about the best way to do things. In fact, part of your job is to contribute your best professional opinion based on your skills and experience. However, once the team leader has made a decision, your job is to support that decision to the best of your ability.
Willingness to help others
Being a great team member means that you not only actively support the team’s goals, but are also willing when occasionally necessary to help other team members meet those goals. (Of course, if this happens regularly, it’s a sign that the team leader may need to allocated additional resources for part of the project.)
Organizations tend to be made up of departmental “silos,” where, for instance, people in the marketing department tend not to reach out to people in engineering. The impact is that information and expertise gets locked up within departments, when instead it could be contributing to the overall success of the organization’s goals. So someone with a collaborative attitude is more likely to break down those artificial barriers and find ways to bring together shared knowledge and information for the mutual benefit of the team. A great team member is one who actively shares information, and encourages others to do the same.
If you want to be known a great team member, start seeking out opportunities to demonstrate these characteristics to your team leaders (and boss). You’ll quickly develop a reputation as a terrific company resource, and will have solid examples to give potential new employers should you find yourself interviewing for a job.