Team player

Media24, 27 May 2008

Loners don't get very far in the workplace... here's how to be a team player.

According to Bev Reimer, trainer of The Total Team Leader course (run by major training organisation BizTech): "You find individuals trying to attain personal glory and often they sabotage co-workers – it is not in the best interests of any organisation. Shared ownership of duties and responsibilities always sees better performance."

Liza Van Wyk, CEO of BizTech, says it is important to understand how to manage those with different personality types when managing a team. "A great deal of psychology and insight is necessary – what are the motivators for different individuals in the team to achieve? It is not always money or results, sometimes personal acknowledgement is really important or the bonding found in an effective group.

"While some are good ideas people, they may be less skilled at administration or organisation but in any team it will be possible to assess which members do better in certain areas." Often it is better to let people select tasks they are interested in, rather than delegate, people will tend to opt for what they are best at doing.

Reimer says it's important to ensure the team is clear on its objective – getting the job done. "To maintain that clarity, it's not a good idea for people to regularly go for drinks after work or socialise too often, it begins changing the group dynamic. It is important that social activities and work rarely cross each other."

BizTech manager, Debby Bosch notes that it is important for a team leader or manager to lead by example: "Understanding and respecting your peers improves relationships and leads to increased productivity. When disagreements occur it is important to ensure it does not disintegrate into a contest about who is right or wrong, if you give constructive feedback you are more likely to receive it in return."

She advises: "Be solutions focussed, think problems through seeking constructive outcomes. Know when to be assertive and never aggressive in addressing challenges. Be dependable and truthful."

"Know yourself; be aware of prejudice that may make you respond in an unfair manner toward someone. Have empathy, listen and read non-verbal cues.

"A can-do attitude inspires confidence. Take reasonable risks, be goal-directed, admit mistakes and move on. If you know how to cope with stress, you will work better in a team and be more adept at controlling moods and be adaptable and thoughtful."

And know too that success can carry its own perils, the greatest of which is arrogance. Van Wyk warns, "Ultimately each team is part of a greater team, a bigger enterprise – so the excellence of your team in marketing, as an example, helps those who produce and sell the product do better, everything is interconnected. The better your product sells, the more jobs it can create, the more people are employed the more stable the economy and the less crime.

"It's easy to be a critic, but more rewarding it is to be a team player – someone who delivers the solutions."

Here's a checklist for team players and team leaders to follow if they want to play a valuable part in the team dynamic:

Listen – allowing the free exchange of ideas encourages innovation.
Question – interrogate suggestions and old methodologies.
Persuade – exchange, defend and rethink ideas.
Respect – treat others with respect and support their ideas.
Help – mutual co-operation and assistance is vital.
Participate – work shared is completed more efficiently and faster.