Teamwork: are you good at working with others?
For some readers of Inspire, this question appears easy to answer, as you might be working in a larger organisation and within a formal team. However, even in that situation there will be many people whom you have to work with in order to perform your job effectively, where teamwork can be applied even if they are not formally within your team. They might be other departments in your organisation, other businesses, suppliers and even clients.
For my part, like many self-employed people, working on my own, you might think that teamwork does not come into my working life. However, no individual can be successful completely on their own. I had a great example recently of how my team of wonderful suppliers pulled together. I was exhibiting at an exhibition and realised I wanted some more of my lovely bookmarks to give away, but I wanted to have a QR code put on them, which required a new QR code landing page on my website, so it was not just the case of sending them off to the printers. I thought that with just a week to go it would be understandable if my suppliers said it was not possible. However, I can thank Merrill Jacobs, www.generowebdesign.co.uk, Karen Leahy, www.k-design.demon.co.uk, and Helen, www.parchmentuk.com/index.html for super quick turnaround times and excellent customer service. And while I am singing praises I'll mention my wonderful freelance PA, Sarah Collins, www.smarttype.co.uk who proof reads and inputs Inspire, each month, along with supporting my business in many other ways.
Who are all the people in your ‘team'?
You might also consider particular friends and family members who support you outside of work, if their support enables you to turn up for work and perform effectively. It might be your partner cooking the evening meal, organising the school run or a friend who is always ready to listen to your workplace woes or your next big idea for making money!
‘There is work that is work and there is play that is play; there is play that is work and work that is play. And in only one of these lies happiness.'
Here are some of the common problems I have witnessed or heard about in clients' teams:
- Lack of rapport – Team members and/or the manager and their team have no connection with each other. Rapport is the very foundation of any working relationship and, without it, communication and teamwork are very tricky.
Solution: If there is no rapport at all then the last thing you want to do is to have an away day or a night out, as it will often make things worse! However, you can take action on a day to day basis to start to build rapport with others through enhancing your day to day interactions with each other.
- Personality clashes – Often in a team you need different personalities as they bring different perspectives and skills to the team. However, they can also result in clashes if people do not understand the personality differences and learn to use and appreciate those differences.
Solution: Learning more about each other's personality types can help the team to draw on each other's strengths, learn to spot and compensate for weaknesses in personality types. See August 2009 Inspire, for more on personality types, click here. I run workshops for teams using Myers Briggs Type Indicator to help them understand and make the best use of their different personality types, give me a call on 01865 377334 if you would like to discuss this further.
- Poor communication skills – If team members and/or the manager does not know how to deal with issues in a constructive ‘Adult to Adult' manner, then conflict or mis-communication can ensue.
Solution: It might be that the team needs to learn how to communicate more from the assertive Adult mode, rather than slipping into more unhelpful ways of communicating. If you are the manager, model this kind of behavior and coach teams members to enhance their communication skills.
- Game playing – And I don't mean the fun type of games! Eric Berne's first book on Transactional Analysis was called Games People Play. Most people are unconscious of the games that they play with others, however, they can be very destructive in the workplace.
Solution: Transactional Analysis is a great way of understanding more about the interactions that we have with others. I introduce it to clients on my workshops and during coaching. Click firstname.lastname@example.org to request an introductory handout on TA or to discuss a workshop for your team. A book I would recommend on TA is ‘Working It Out At Work' by Julie Hay, as I find Eric Berne's book a bit dated and also not focused on the workplace.
- Scapegoating – It seems to be that there is often one person who becomes the scapegoat in a team. Any problems within the team are either overtly or covertly blamed on them. Which often lets the other team members off the hook in terms of looking to themselves to shoulder some of the responsibility for the team's issues.
Solution: It is far too easy to blame the person who is a challenge to work with, for all of a team's ills. Recognise that scapegoating is a natural process in any group or community, but that does not mean it is OK to do it. Catch yourself if you are starting to do this. Be honest with yourself as to your own or others' role in any issues that arise.
- Moody or moaning colleagues – I have come across so many teams where the team's happiness, productivity and even stress levels are deeply affected by one member's mood. If that person is in a good mood, then all is well, but if they are in a bad mood it infects the whole team, especially if it is the manager who is moody!
Solution: This is a challenge. I've been in enough teams where this has happened to know that it can impact on everyone else. However, from my experience if you are in a strong, centred, happy place yourself it is much easier to remain unaffected by the other person's mood.
- The ‘Selfish Jean' – I heard about this from an associate of mine, Roy Leighton (http://wearecoral.com). At a recent workshop he talked about the team member who, although they give the impression of being part of the team by remembering people's birthdays, etc., are not really part of the team at all, as they are resistant to any changes or new ideas from other people. They are only interested in their own needs, hence the ‘selfish Jean' title. Their game playing or sulking at any change means that other people are reluctant to challenge them.
Solution: As with some of the other scenarios discussed above, other team members need to be strong, communicate in an Adult to Adult way and be prepared to deal with any fall out in a constructive manner by not getting involved in game playing, in order to move the team forward.
- Lack of vision or direction – Team members need to know both what they are doing and why they are doing it. Sometimes the bigger picture (especially in larger organisations) gets lost, which can impact on how well the team works together and with others in the organisation or business.
Solution: As a manager it is important to discuss with the team on a regular basis the direction or vision of the business or organisation, so people don't lose sight of the big picture and get bogged down and demoralised by day to day issues.
- Task versus process – When managers and team members are very busy, it is easy to become so task focused that you forget to treat each other as human beings.
Solution: Stop and ask yourself: when was the last time you asked someone how they are, what they did at the weekend, how a meeting went that they were worried about or simply said hello, please and thank you. It is those small actions which both build rapport and help people to feel acknowledged, rather than them feeling like just a cog in a machine.
‘Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.'
One way is to take our free Team Development Audit (email email@example.com for details), but in the meantime think about the following points:
- How much laughter is there in the team? You might be thinking ‘hang on a moment, they are here to do a job, what's this about laughter?' If you do think this, then read one of my very early Inspires from 2006: click here, about lightening life with a bit of laughter. Laughter and humour are good measures of rapport in a team. Laughter also energises people and can relieve pressure and stress. See the above link for more on this.
- Look at not just the team's KPIs, but other measures – For example, levels of sickness, lateness, positive or negative feedback from clients, etc.
- Do people take responsibility? This is in terms of being proactive, as well as being open and honest about mistakes they have made.
- How much fire fighting is happening? If you are a manager, are you fire fighting, solving the team's problems, or have you developed your team to solve their own problems, freeing you up to be more strategic in your role?
- How much are people supporting each other? Do people naturally help each other out, listen to each other, and support each other's ideas in meetings?
‘The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work.'
- – If you are a manager of a team, this is a brand new service to help you to review your team's performance and think through what development they might need (email firstname.lastname@example.org for details). This free audit involves the following:
– If you are running your own business, working on your own, then coaching can support you in tackling the day to day issues you face. One area of work that I have been asked to work on quite a lot this year, is in helping clients overcome the psychological blocks to marketing and selling. This free Coaching Audit is designed for individuals who are wondering whether coaching will benefit them, and wanting to think through what they want to focus on during a coaching programme. The Coaching Audit works in the same way as the Team Development Audit above, but with a questionnaire which focuses on you as an individual. Click here to take the free coaching audit.
– We run a variety of team development programmes to suit your needs.
– I coach managers from a wide variety of businesses for a range of purposes from developing their own coaching and performance management skills, managing pressure and stress to presenting yourself with confidence.
- You, as the manager of the team, completing a pre-coaching questionnaire and returning it to me.
- We have an hour long telephone conversation to discuss the team's needs and what training, coaching or team development might be necessary to enhance how the team works towards the business goals.
- I send a proposal of what training, coaching or team development programmes might be suitable.
- The manager then makes a decision as to whether they wish to proceed.
'You cannot teach people anything. You can only help them to discover it within themselves'