Nov
20

Making the "A" Team

Communication and team work really have a huge impact on bottom line, completion dates and overall employee moral.

When I say that, it seems like such a “duh” statement, but in day to day activities sometimes this simple statement can be so overlooked. I’ve worked in some very different team environments, and I feel that I’ve taken away with some decent experience as to what really makes a team successful in projects. I’m sure we’ve all had our parts in bad teams and in super ones. Each time we assess the team and wonder, “why was that so difficult/easy, compared to last time??”

So what are some ways good teamwork can be created? Wait… it can be created?! Yes. I believe anyone can become a great teammate, and a good team can be formed anywhere, any time, as long as a few guidelines are upheld.

  1. Be HONEST about your abilities, weaknesses, mistakes and concerns.
    • You need to know what the team has to work with, if you set out to accomplish a goal that your team isn’t prepared for, you’re doomed. Don’t take on a movie deal if you’re a couple of guys and a camcorder. Find out what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are.
    • Alert the team on any serious blockers as soon as they’re made known, hiding these serious road blocks and trying to find an answer yourself may be harder on team moral than just owning up to mistakes or changes and working out the kinks as a team instead of placing all the blame on one team mate for trying to cover it up until it was too late to repair. Everyone is human, we all make mistakes, own up to them and find a way to work around it instead of placing the blame on someone else.
    • If you have concerns or questions about what a project includes or what is required, talk to someone and be honest. If you think something won’t work, don’t be afraid to let someone know, it’s better the team knows about a possible roadblock before it becomes an issue. At least you can all start brainstorming ways to fix it now, instead of later when someone is freaking out because you didn’t tell them before.
  2. RESPECT your team mates as experts.
    • No one is ever any better than anyone else. Why? Because without everyone in the team you can’t complete your goal. Everyone is just as important as anyone else at getting the job done.
    • Just because you think their job is easy, doesn’t mean it is. Sometimes people are so good at what they do, they just make it look easy.
    • There’s nothing wrong with brainstorming ideas on the best practices on how to do something, but when your team mate is clearly more versed in what you’re trying to accomplish, take the time to actually listen to what they have to say.
    • If a suggested solution clearly isn’t a suitable answer, be prepared to back it up with fact and reason instead of “because I want to do it that way”.
  3. COMMUNICATE about the project and every person’s needs to get their part completed.
    • Don’t ever leap before you look. Always let all the team members know why they’re working on a project to begin with. Tell them what the goals are, tell them what the outlook is going to look like.
    • Don’t skimp on defining the needs or desires of the project, these guidelines will be important when you want to make quick decisions. Communication is so important when you want to work quickly, giving all team members all the information means that they can make informed decisions without having to interrupt someone else or having to wait until the team leader is available for questions. This can also save you time on rework when people make uninformed snap decisions that have to be later readdressed.
    • Sometimes additional needs and considerations aren’t thought of fully until the entire team is fully informed in the needs of the projects.
  4. Be OPEN to others opinions and questions.
    • Just because you’re an expert in a particular area, doesn’t mean someone else on the team doesn’t have a good idea on how to approach a difficult problem in a creative way.
    • When additional items, issues, concerns or changes are dug up, be open to accepting that one person can not always think of all the things that can go wrong or need to be addressed.
    • If a team member feels they need additional information to complete their tasks, take the time to listen and to at least try to address their concerns or questions. These questions can be vital to dredging up pot holes that could have derailed the project further down the line.
  5. LEARN as much as you can.
    • Learn about project, the proposed process and your team mates. Find out everyones goals, roles and bits and pieces. Figure out how you fit into the process and who is intimately relying on you to do your job and do it well.
    • Constantly expand your current knowledge base, the more you know about your field, the more of an expert you are. The more confident you will be of your decisions that effect the project and the less mistakes you’ll make (usually).
    • Knowing about how your piece fits in with everything else will help you in planning what you need to get out when or how to deliver it, because you’ll know more about how and when the next team mate will need it. This makes their job that much easier.

So that’s it! Honesty, Respect, Communication, Being Open, and Learning. That’s all it takes to become a great team mate and a great team in total. Sometimes in the heat of trying to get something done, you can forget these very simple guidelines, but just take a deep breath and remember that everyone you’re working with to get this done want the same thing. And that is, to get the project done, right, on time and under budget. You’re all on the same team, with the same overall goal. No one is against you, no one is trying to make your life harder for no real reason. Head up, smile, and remember Honesty, Respect, Communication, Being Open, and Learning.

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This little blog happens to be the personal ramblings of one April Holle - I'm female, outspoken, webbie, a community evangelist, and Principal of Made Better Studio. Check out the about section for more info.

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