“There’s no ‘I’ in team.” We have all heard it before and know what it means. The collective good takes precedence above the individual ego. But, if we are being honest, the workplace does not always equip or encourage us to follow through on this premise.
Why? Because we have individual priorities, projects, deadlines, and responsibilities. And, whenever we fall short in any of these areas, it’s extremely poor form to say we were busy helping the rest of the team, even when that might very well be what happened.
If we are lucky, the organization that we support will have a clear vision and a mission to support it. It’s also great when there are SMART goals and metrics to drive them. Bring it all together with transparent communication and alignment at every level and we are set up to have overwhelming success.
The reality, however, is that this is not often the case. On top of that, even when we have some of these elements present, we still end up with inconsistent and disruptive agendas from different departments or individuals. So, knowing what it takes a team to WIN, how can we navigate the complexities and still be the best team player?
Prioritize Your Work
This might sound, and feel, counterintuitive but the best way you can be a team player is to prioritize and execute your work with a high level of competency. Your teammates are counting on you to execute well and more importantly for them, to not have to pick up your slack.
This is where clarity on your roles and responsibilities becomes critical, especially in environments that have vague and nuanced accountability. You need to push to get lazar clarity about what’s within your scope of control and what expectations you are required to meet.
There is no perfect organizational structure and so inevitability waste and redundancy are created. This becomes exasperated especially when different functions are unaware of how work gets done within their silos. With that in mind, try to find synergies between yourself and your counterparts to reduced wasted time and effort as much as possible.
Can multiple reports between departments converge into one? Is there meaningful information needed from you that is simple to complete? Does redundant work exist that you can easily discontinue? Find these synergies by interacting more with your counterparts to collaborate efficiently.
This is another counterintuitive point, but as important as it is to say YES to the right initiatives, it’s just as important to say NO to the wrong ones. Anyone in HR will tell you that it’s much more expensive to hire the ‘wrong’ candidate for a job. That’s the power of saying no at the right time.
Your colleagues are trusting your expertise and guidance daily. A part of that expertise is to speak up and articulate when a particular path is detrimental if it were to be pursued. You are not doing anyone any favors by withholding your perspective to appear as a “team player.” Worse yet, you may be allowing resources to be wasted.
Allow Others to Contribute
We often have the image of a team player being someone that energetically and excitedly runs around ‘doing’ as much as they possibly can. However, allowing others to demonstrate their competence and grow is much more important than just getting the job done.
This can be a difficult decision as there are times when we can get the job done more efficiently. But, cultivating a capable and winning team means taking the time to invest in those around us which includes opportunities to tackle meaningful and challenging work.
Hold Team Members Accountable
This can be the most difficult but, potentially the most meaningful aspect of being a good team player. The difficulty comes from an aversion to conflict as well as the desire to maintain pleasant relationships with our colleagues. The situation gets even more complicated when we work in an environment that requires influence and there aren’t direct managerial structures.
In these moments what is required is courage and compassion. Compassion to care about your team enough to not let unsatisfactory work go unaddressed and courage to risk the conflict that may occur. Despite the risk whenever these interactions are approached from a positive and uplifting perspective, you can rest assured at the very least, that you’ll be acting with your team’s best interest at heart.
I genuinely believe that most of us want to be effective and capable colleagues. Most of us want to win as a team and deliver the best results possible. However, there are times when a lack of communication, unclear expectations, and poor direction keeps us from being our best selves. But, when our goal is to be the best possible team players that we can, we start to chip away at some of the root causes for dysfunction and improve the environment in which we get work done.