While we are brought up to be modest, we soon learn that a big ego usually leads to success more quickly. Those who are louder and put out their elbows will get ahead and have the say. This continues in professional life and leads to candidates exaggerating their tasks and responsibilities in applications. In job interviews, too, we should then sell ourselves with confidence. But when it comes to the actual job one is quickly confronted with the question: How can the enhancement of such qualities work in a team?
Some people may get the impression in the course of their working lives that the term team actually only refers to a group of lone fighters who have little or no interest in each other. After all, people only work together when it is necessary for their own benefit.
While this may seem like a provoking thought, it is sadly also a very common one. Of course, it's not like this in every team, and some readers may have already thought this to be a crazy accusation against teams and their members. Nevertheless, working together in a group of individuals remains a challenge. That is why we have thought about which points we felt were crucial for good teamwork.
Openness and trust are important, because they allow each member to contribute to the common goal, even when diverging opinions are present. The ideal situation is, that every team member can express themselves freely without having to fear unprofessional or even hurtful comments. In return, all colleagues listen carefully to each other. This creates an atmosphere of trust in which everyone is happy to contribute their ideas. Differences of opinion are not an obstacle, contrarily they drive the project forward and improve the quality of the work.
This should be considered a right as well as an obligation by each team member, as each individual is responsible for ensuring that everyone abides by the rules of fair cooperation. Every colleague should be able to rely on the support of the team. The basis for this is a joint decision-making process.
What is the overarching aim that everyone is trying to achieve? Each member of the team must have the opportunity to understand the common goals. Working into nothingness very quickly gives one a feeling of isolation and senselessness.
The goals do not necessarily have to be set by the boss, but can also be decided together. It is always important to set deadlines in order to stay on course.
If the objectives are clear, the progress of the work should be reviewed regularly. Ideally everyone knows his or her part within the greater project and keeps up with their individual work. If you are a part of a well functioning team you will quickly find yourself taking into account what team members may need from you and heighten your feeling of responsibility over your own task as you do not just do it for yourself, but for your entire team. This does not mean that a well-functioning team will always hit its targets and stay within the deadlines. After all, conditions often change and require a different and dynamic approach. But together, these obstacles can be overcome much more easily.
Of course we don't like all colleagues equally and maybe there is even one who really gets on our nerves. Fortunately, the status of a colleague does not oblige us to be friends, but its does require us to be professional and courteous.
Do not to get hung up on the negative qualities of others unnecessarily. Even if you may not like someone on a personal level be aware of the role they play within the team and learn to appreciate their contribution to the goal.
Last but not least, teamwork is also based on the assumption that different perspectives lead to greater productivity and are enriching. For this to work, a certain tolerance for each other is essential.
In light of difficult colleagues, clear responsibilities also help to set boundaries and to hold individuals accountable. With each person having a different task and presenting their own area of responsibility to the team it will quickly become apparent who truly works for the goal of the team and who works more for themselves.
A clear division of responsibilities will also help to ensure that each task has been assigned to one member, that there are no overlaps and that no tasks gets forgotten or go unnoticed because no one considers themselves responsible for it. That is not to suggest that if something slips past the group that there is necessarily laziness or even malice, but simply a different perception of the distribution of tasks. A large part of the initial effort should therefore go into clarifying responsibilities and giving each team member a fair chunk of the work to be done.
A successful team reflects on its own work. What worked in the last project does not always have to be the best solution for future challenges. And there were probably also things that simply didn't go so well. This is not a sign of weakness, but part of the development as a team.
Again, openness is the key to success. Constructive exchange can only take place if each colleague takes the time and is prepared to adapt his or her own working behaviour in accordance to the team.
"All well and good", some may say now. We are all aware that reality is not always as easy and theoretical concepts themselves do not change a team’s behaviour. But awareness about which characteristics should be displayed is a good start to implement a change and have a clear idea of what one wants to achieve within one’s own team. So don’t just look at your colleagues with a critical eye, but also think about the areas where you could improve. Get the ball rolling and start a conversation about what hopes and wishes your colleagues have for the team. In the end, teamwork is alway a joint project.