When you attend a seminar or conference, they usually include one session on "team-building." The conference leaders also usually go through the now familiar routine of "introduce your self to the people next to you," or they put you into teams to solve a problem that is presented to you as a group. The other thing that is common is a couple of cheerleading exercises that they use as a fundamental way of promoting teamwork within your corporate structure.
While some of these activities are plain hokey, the concept of having everyone working together is critical to the success of every business. What is even more important is the ability to work with different groups and not only your "team."
Nothing kills teamwork faster than a bad attitude. Listed below are a few of the common killers of teamwork. It doesn't matter what kind of business you are in, these items apply universally.
I can't work with so-and-so. - It is time to put personality issues aside and stay professional. Sure there are people you really don't care to be around, but don't let them bring out the worst in you. Sometimes if this issue is one where it is actually unbearable, it may be best to leave rather than to destroy your own career.
It's my way or the highway. - Someone has to be in charge, but never confuse leadership with knowing it all. Your way may lead to the highway sooner than you would like if you maintain that attitude.
Why do I always get stuck babysitting new people? - I would take this as a compliment. Someone in charge thinks that you are a good mentor and has recognized your special talent at bringing along new employees.
I'm too busy. - The old saying about asking a busy person if you want something is actually very true. If you truly cannot devote adequate time to a project because of your other demands, speak to your superior about priorities. You have probably been assigned to the new project because you are a good fit, not because you are being punished.
This is a dumb project. - Do you really know all the details of this project and how your work fits into the big picture? A clearly defined goal should be the starting point of any project. If it is not, then you obviously do not have the necessary information you need to complete your mission.
Are we just doing this to make the boss look good? - Actually, maybe you are, but your boss is probably holding your next promotion or salary increase in his or her hands. I would think that should be a fairly good incentive. Besides, in reality, your boss' boss knows that he does not do all these things on his own. Don't blow your chance to be recognized either now or later.
Whose bright idea was this? - Does it really matter? If it is a good idea, just be thankful that you have the opportunity to develop it. On the other hand, if it is a bad idea, that fact will show up soon enough. Do not make the mistake of dismissing an idea solely because of the source. I'm a firm believer that everybody's got a few good ideas floating around in the gray matter.
Can't someone else do this? - Sure they can, and perhaps even better than you. Are you that eager to give up the opportunity? Give it your best shot and show that not only are you a team player, you are actually the "go-to guy" or gal.
I'll do it./You can do it. - Either way, the team concept is missing. Some projects can succeed with just one person on the job, but two heads are better than one. Don't shun help just to make things easier. It usually backfires. Also, don't shun help for fear that you may not get credit for your contribution to the project.
What happens if we fail? - Who said you were working to fail? Starting out with a negative attitude can be your first and worst mistake. From my experience, most people do not plan to fail, they fail to plan properly. It is better that you should plan to succeed and keep your goal clearly in the center of your plans. There is a saying in Japan: "To eat from the same pot." In any business, everyone eats from the same pot regardless of the job title. If the pot disappears, everyone goes hungry. But when the pot is full, the fruits of labor are shared by all.
Jack Kemp played ball at a small school, Occidental College in Los Angeles. At the start of one season, the coach called him in and said that every year he keeps his eye on one player. That year he said he was keeping his eye on Kemp because he had the right ingredients for greatness. When Jack Kemp left the office, he was so pumped up that he felt he could have walked through a brick wall with ease. Jack would have done anything for his coach. What he did not know was that the coach gave the same speech to every player.
Of course, the coach fully realized that molding a winning team from former high school players was a massive challenge for any coach. You have to make every player feel special so that he will perform at his maximum potential and play unselfishly. The coach had to get them to play as a team.
When Lou Holtz coached at the University of Minnesota, he had jerseys printed up that said TEAM in huge capital letters. That was printed over "me" in much smaller letters. He was instilling into the players that they were special, but not so special, because the TEAM came first. They were all wearing the same uniform and all were equal.
Each situation is different, because each organization has its own dynamic. Large companies are usually highly structured and specialized. In smaller companies, there tend to be more generalists, because everyone has to wear several hats and play multiple roles.
We can say that teamwork is a collection of people who respect each other and are committed to each other's successes. It is a brilliant concept, but usually quite difficult to pull off in actual practice.
What makes a good team player? You have to be willing to explain and share your knowledge in a helpful and patient manner, the way an able teacher would. You cannot wear blinders. You have to know not only what is expected of you, but also what is expected of others. You have to leave your ego at the door and accept the possibility that someone may have a better solution than you do.