7 Ways to Boost Your Ability as a Team Member

Where do you spend your days in the workplace? Are you living in the trenches of your organization, like the vast majority of us? If so, then I celebrate *you* — as a real Team Member — the person who does the actual work that delivers value for your business.

Allow me the humbling honor to present this Kudo Card to you and your Teammates for a job well done in 2015!

 

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So much blogging is about leadership and how to become a great “leader”, and ‘leader this leader that’, so let’s shift gears for a moment and talk about the workplace reality for the vast majority of us, which lies in the art and skill of being a great Team Member in the trenches.

How many of us actually live in the Fortune 500 C-Suite anyway? Instead, we are the ones who live in the trenches of an organization and do the hard work needed to meet a critical set of business objectives that are borne out of the C-Suite. And doing this well requires all of us to act less as individuals and more as Team Members. But what does this actually mean?

Is your annual performance review coming up?

In fact, as we approach our end-of-year annual performance reviews, consider turning the table on this often soul-draining meeting by offering your manager a valuable set of learnings about great Teamwork and what it means to add value in your organization. The meeting could transform into a meaningful feedback exchange that helps you and your manager learn and grow together as workplace professionals.

What is the difference between an individual and a Team Member?

Showing the strength, humility and confidence as a Team Member isn’t as easy as it might sound. It takes a lot for someone to transform from an individual contributor and into a real Team Member. Sure, I could sit in an office cube all day and code apps by myself, but the reality is that we work on much larger and complex projects that require me to work effectively on a Team. Great Teamwork becomes even more essential when my Team has to collaborate and integrate with other Teams in the organization. Does this describe your workplace?

The following are seven recommendations that I offer individuals to help them grow into high performing Team Members. These suggestions represent growth opportunities for many of us, as it requires skills and emotional awareness to develop into a collaborative, cross-skilled and authentic Team Member.

As you read through each suggestion, try pausing for a moment and ask the following self-reflective questions in preparation for your annual performance review:

Where am I on the Team Member spectrum?

Where do I see opportunities for personal Team Member growth heading into next year?

1 – Show Vulnerability in Front of Your Teammates.

To become a great Team Member, we have to feel comfortable in our own skin, which includes admitting our weaknesses and shortcomings in front of our Teammates. As a Software Developer myself, I had days where I was just plain stuck and frustrated. I would look at a piece of defective code and couldn’t figure out the root of the problem. However, I wouldn’t just sit there and stare at my computer screen all day in defeat – I would reach out to a fellow Team Member, admit my frustration, and ask for help. Oftentimes, two heads are much better than one when solving a problem, and it’s okay to let your guard down if you’re struggling. Plus, when you’re willing to be vulnerable, it encourages your Teammates to follow suit.

If you have downtime over the holiday season, then I strongly recommend reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. It’s a life changing book that helps each of us discover the power and strength when being vulnerable in front of others.

2 – Accept That You’re Going to Fail.

In a recent post about failure, I shared a real story about a Team Member who experienced a visible and costly moment of failure on a software development project. Look – we’re ALL human and we make mistakes all the time. This might sound cliché, but a great Team Member accepts responsible failure as a reality and uses every failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. In addition, great Team Members understand that our fellow Teammates are also going to experience failure, so we must handle those situations with respect and compassion by offering a helping hand – all in the interest of learning and growth.

3 – Be Honest About Who You Are.

Don’t be someone you’re not. For example, you are not the invincible-hero Software Developer who has all of the answers to every software development challenge. You are a real person who offers skillfulness and passion to help solve tough problems directly with your Teammates. Authenticity (i.e., your ability to be real and genuine) allows your Teammates to feel comfortable being authentic and real as well. If you walk into the office with more energy than usual, show it! Or if you’re feeling sluggish on a Wednesday, admit it to your Teammates, so they can help you through the day. Great Teams ooze authenticity, which allows the Team to adapt and optimize its performance every single day.

4 – Don’t Accept the Status Quo.

Great Teams constantly (and respectfully) challenge the larger organization to change and improve for the Teams’ benefit. As a Team Member, you can lead the charge by taking ownership of a difficult organizational issue and facilitate a broader conversation that shines the light on the issue, the impact it has on your Team, and ideas for how to solve for it.

No more ho-hum: “This is just the way things are going to be and nothing will ever change” attitude.

To evolve into a great Team Member, you have to be willing to respectfully & politely challenge the status quo and show some leadership for the organization’s benefit. Leadership is not a job title – rather, it’s the ability to inspire and influence positive changes that align with the vision and mission of your organization. You can do this!

5 – Stop Trying to Reach Consensus on Decisions.

Teams make countless numbers of decisions every single day. Software Development Teams, for example, make decisions on clean-code policies, design choices, ownership of work, etc. However, be wary of consensus-based decision protocols. If every Team Member has to completely agree with a decision to move forward, then your Team could get locked in consensus paralysis and endless debates.

Instead, learn how to make decisions using consent, which allows every Team Member’s voice to be heard and genuinely considered, while not having to completely agree 100% with the decision. In consent, I know that my opinion matters, so I am willing to support a decision and live by it (even if I don’t completely agree with it). This technique allows great Teams to make decisions faster and with the collective intelligence of the entire Team.

6 – Demand Clarity.

As a great Team Member, tune your communication skills so you can help establish clarity behind the Team’s goals and decisions. Teams often falter when they realize they’re lacking clarity (uhhhh, what did we decide again??), and this can hamper the pursuit of high performance.

Instead, show some leadership as a Team Member by carefully articulating a goal, a decision, etc. in clear and well-understood language for everyone to consume. Make sure this clarity is made visible and transparent for the entire Team (on a wall or in the electronic tools you use for managing content). This is how a shared commitment works in a great Team. For example, I can’t commit to a certain Team ritual unless we all have clarity on what it is, when it’s held, and most importantly, “why” it’s essential for reaching our goals together.

7 – Stop Passing Judgment.

Truly genuine Team Members bring an open-minded stance into the workplace, which makes you more approachable by your Teammates. If I’m on your Team and you’ve already formed a (negative?) opinion about me, then you won’t be willing to listen when I come to you with a thought or idea.

Your ability to have an open mind is an essential and necessary dynamic in a high performance Team environment. How approachable are you if you constantly assume that your Teammates ideas aren’t as good as yours? To rid yourself of Team-destructive judgment, you must be willing to look at everything through the eyes of your fellow Teammates. You don’t have to completely believe what others believe, and you might even be offended by how another Team Member is behaving, but that doesn’t mean that you have to assume and judge that person indefinitely.

Rather than passing judgment, open your mind long enough to understand how that Team Member thinks, which will drive productive and non-judgmental conversation that helps that Team Member, and the whole Team, learn and grow together.

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In Closing

What opportunities do you see for yourself to grow into an outstanding Team Member? What other qualities do you feel makes a person a great Team Member? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.

 

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