Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Team Effectiveness

How To Think Like An Effective Team Member

It is no small task to build a team of involved, motivated workers who produce impressive results that “wow!” the customer, leading to ever-increasing profitability in today’s volatile marketplace. To do so organizational leaders and team members must develop heart-felt beliefs in seven key principles.

1. Teamwork works.

The research and popular literature abound with examples of the measurable financial and performance results that occur when teams of diverse people bring their talents together. It’s not teamwork for the sake of teamwork. The “right results” happen when the teamwork is focused on what matters most to the organization, its members, and its customers. Research shows that when employees feel a part of a supportive team focused on these common goals and principles, those employees tend to become more involved, more loyal, and more interpersonally cooperative.

Problem solving is clearly enhanced when collective brain power is used. A synergy occurs such that the total power at work and the total results obtained are greater than the sum that could have been generated from individual team members acting independently. In teamwork, the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

The old adage is true: “Great discoveries and achievements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.”

2. The leader succeeds only when the team succeeds.

Edwin Markham once said, “There is a destiny which makes us brothers. None goes on his way alone; all that we send into the lives of others, comes back into our own.”

Consider the plight of the athletic coach. When he or she is referred to as a “winning coach,” what does that mean? It means, of course, that the team has been winning. No matter how clever, how smart, or how skillful the coach, the term “winning coach” is only applied when the coach has been successful in building a team that understands the game, is motivated, is trained to cover each function, works together cooperatively, and wins!

So it is with the team leader. The leader must come to realize that the leadership tasks of developing team members and coaching and training the team provides the foundation for leader’s success. In the long run, building a team that can work together provides a much greater opportunity for survival and success than the immediate reinforcement of individual accomplishments. The leader will have helped to build a team that, collectively, is able to meet the challenges of non-stop change. The great team leader has discovered, “The greatest good we can do for others is not to share our riches, but to reveal theirs.”

3. Much can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit or the blame.

The setting aside of inflated egos and competitive power moves is an essential key to a high-performing team. This must be modeled by the team leader.

The leader should be quick to praise, encourage, and celebrate team achievements. He or she should demonstrate this not only within the immediate team, but should also show it in interpersonal relationships with other managers. Competitiveness with peers and other departments leaves the team leader in the unworkable position of expecting others to “do as I say, not as I do.”

A corresponding tenet for team leaders and members relates to the opposite of credit, blame. Because they are focused simply on working together to get the job done, they do not enter into the temporarily ego-boosting activity of searching for someone to blame, of attempting to make that person look bad so that they can look better. The skillful leader realizes that there must be shared responsibility for getting things back on track. Someone once said, “When the best leader’s work is done, the workers say, ‘We did it ourselves.”

4. People perform best when they feel valued and secure.

Outstanding team leaders and members have learned that people need to feel secure, physically and psychologically, in order to enthusiastically focus on improved quality and productivity. When employees are afraid, they will not ask questions, share ideas and opinions, or take a position. They are unable to correct their course when they do not understand some aspect of their job or what is right and wrong. The anxiety associated with fear results in difficulty concentrating and therefore, in mistakes. An intimidated, fearful workforce is, in the long run, an unproductive one.

5. Teams that engage in the relentless pursuit of growth are motivated teams.

Edward Filene said, “The keynote of progress we should remember is not merely doing away with what is bad. It is replacing the best with something better.”

Team members who are challenged to continually be thinking about how something can be done better, about how something could be used more effectively, and about the development of features that serve customers better...these are the people who will continue to stay motivated and productive.

6. Think systemically in order to solve problems.

To understand the patterns that underlie problems, think systemically. Yesterday’s manager was intent on “managing the department.” Unfortunately, this myopic view of an isolated part of the system is destined to fail. Not only is the problem unsolved, but the overall system grows less and less healthy.

It is essential that team leaders and members practice taking the broader view, understanding the interrelatedness of actions even in “distant parts” of the organizational system. Cause and effect are often not closely related in time and space. Thus, real solutions can only come when teams examine processes rather than narrow snapshots.

7. The “voice of the customer”, both the internal and external customer, is the benchmark for effective teamwork.

The all-important expectations and perceptions of customers must be solicited, heard, and used as benchmarks. This principle is placed last for emphasis, not for lack of importance. Customers, who are the receivers of products and services, are found both inside and outside the reoganization. It is the customer, and only the customer, who can define relevant goals. Effective team members recognize this, and enact as many ways as possible to hear all of their customers loudly and clearly.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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