BY MAMIE KANFER STEWART
Many of us enjoyed watching extraordinary teammates in action at the Rio Summer Olympics. These teammates worked as one to complete swimming relays, toss balls into baskets and over nets, and propel boats forward. Their trust and respect for each other was so great that they seemed to read each other’s minds and take each other’s victories and failures as their own. They knew that their greatness depended on each other.
How to be an effective team member
Teamwork brings individuals together in a coordinated effort to work toward a common goal. While most of us are not Olympians, we do work in different types of teams. Here are five actions you can take to become a better team collaborator, inspire your teammates, and help your team become high performing.
1. Hold yourself accountable.
“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” — Vince Lombardi, considered one of the best coaches in professional American football history
Accountability is fundamental to being a great teammate. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Take responsibility for your work and deliver high-quality results on time. If you can’t meet a deadline, inform those who are waiting for your work as soon as possible. Don’t make your teammates or other stakeholders chase you down; this means more work for them.
–I follow through on what I promise to do.
–I deliver a high-quality work product.
–I accomplish the tasks assigned to me on time. If I can’t meet the deadline, I let others know in advance, and offer solutions to meet the team’s needs.
2. Support your colleagues.
“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” — Napoleon Hill, author
As a supportive team member, you give your colleagues what you can to help them do their best work. This can be emotional support, teaching them something that you know, and/or sharing constructive feedback to help them grow. When you see the opportunity to support your teammates, do so. And don’t forget to ask them for help when you need it.
–I share information clearly and in a timely manner when it affects my colleagues’ work.
–I offer positive and constructive feedback to the leader and other members.
–I support the leader and other members to accomplish the team’s goals.
3. Put the team first.
“If a team is to reach its potential, each player must be willing to subordinate his personal goals to the good of the team.” — Bud Wilkinson, American football player and coach.
With a “we” mentality, you work to ensure the team’s goal is clearly defined and collectively shared. So when it comes to critical decisions, everyone can act in the best interests of the team. Instead of trying to be the best or get the credit, take initiative to do what it takes to help the team accomplish its goal. This may mean stepping in where you see a gap or setting your tasks aside for the time being. The team’s success is your success.
–I understand the goal of my team and how I can help achieve that goal.
–I share credit with teammates because it takes a collective effort to accomplish great work.
–I recognize the needs of the team, and volunteer to perform tasks that need to get done.
4. Listen and learn.
“None of us is as smart as all of us.” — Ken Blanchard, best-selling author and leadership expert
Every team member is crucial to the success of the team as a whole, and every team member deserves to be heard. Each person has a unique contribution and perspective. Listen to your teammates to understand what their needs are and why they feel or think the way they do. Reserve judgement, identify your biases, and see what you can learn from your teammates.
–I actively listen to my colleagues’ ideas and avoid making snap judgements. I ask questions of my colleagues and seek to understand, even when I disagree.
–I am open to changing my position based on the ideas of my teammates.
–I invite others to question my thinking.
5. Be positive and respectful.
“We are not a team because we work together. We are a team because we trust, respect and care for each other.” — Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist, Salesforce
A positive attitude makes you a better team member. Feelings of gratitude and respect lift team spirits, create trust, and allow space for vulnerability and making mistakes, crucial ingredients for growth. In addition, studies find that a culture of positivity is more productive as reflected by increased customer satisfaction and a greater bottom line.
–I treat each person with warmth and respect, honoring the unique individual they are.
–I manage my emotions at work and find constructive outlets for my emotions.
–I avoid complaining and expressing emotions that might negatively influence others. I find appropriate ways to share concerns and frustrations.
Like the best athletes, it’s important that we strive to better ourselves not just for us, but for those around us.