If you are someone that consistently excels on a team, or perhaps you were raised by wolves or play in a high-level rugby club, then this blog is NOT for you. However, if that’s not the case, chances are you may need a friendly reminder on how to be an effective teammate.
Navigating your way through a team environment is a tricky and often morally compromising task that requires a significant amount of tact and diplomacy. Whether it be work, school, sports, relationships, or contributing to your household, it is inevitable that you will be expected to be a team player. Here are a few things that may help you play nice.
- Figure out your role.
Are you a leader or a worker-bee? Where do you fit on the chain of command? Hemingway said: “The only person you should be superior to is your former self.” If you are the boss, remember that the fish dies from the head down. Your decisions and behaviour sets the tone for the rest of your employees. Respect, trust, and fairness are things that you have to give to get. As an employee, it is important to articulate your goals and set your sights on what you want to get out of the job. There’s no point dabbling in work: either go all in or get out.
2. Play your strengths.
What are you good at? What unique asset do you bring to the team? Let’s be honest: if being nice doesn’t come easily to you, maybe you should reconsider your career in customer care or public relations.
We have all answered the interview question: “What are your weaknesses?” It’s a fair question, but don’t build a career around them. Do what you are good at: play your strongest hand. It’s likely that your natural talents or passions will help you gravitate towards a team of like-minded individuals.
3. Own your work.
When things go wrong, who are you going to blame? The easiest way to seek forgiveness from a wreckage is to acknowledge your role in it. The blame game will only disassociate your from your teammates and create tensions. A simple “Yup, I did it and I won’t do it again,” will often suffice. Show your teammates how you have learned from your experience and how you plan to avoid catastrophe in the future. Victimizing yourself will only destroy your credibility.
Also, don’t be scared to work. My life was changed when my rowing coach once told me: “Don’t be scared of the pain. Go after it.” The pain is always going to be there as a product of work. Embrace it, look for it, work for it. It’s mostly a mental thing: when you ease off to delay the pain, you will often find yourself at the end of the pack. Go after it!
4. Give credit where credit is due.
A simple acknowledgement goes a long way. Say “thanks” and recognize the genius in others. The worst kind of teammate will try to take credit for things that go well- don’t be that guy. However, don’t forget to thank yourself from time to time if you are doing an awesome job!
5. Forget the drama.
We all have our beefs, but don’t slam your company, team, or teammates in public. Pour yourself a coffee, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together because Judy from accounting does not want to hear about your personal grievance with the creative team, while she’s eating her lunch.
Other places to avoid a work-related diatribe include: Friday night cocktails with your friends; during breakfast; at dinner; before bed; at a holiday party when I haven’t seen you in a few years; during a road trip; on an airplane; when you are talking to anyone with a vowel in their name-just to name a few…
I hope these tips help your team dynamic, or at the very least, that you find someone pleasant to sit with at lunch.