These days no organization can function without segmenting its Human Resource into teams. As an outcome, “team player” is a very common attribute found on every other resume. But truly being a team player is easier said than done. It requires a lot of self-consciousness and self-restraint to be a team player. Realizing ones’ strengths and potentials helps one perform their best within a team. At the same time, being aware of ones’ weaknesses and blind-spots helps one appreciate the others who can fill up the gaps.
Psychologist Bruce Tuckman has explained the four stages of team development as forming, storming, norming, and performing. Forming being the first phase of team development is the phase where the different team members come together. In today’s well-connected world, it is more than likely for one to know the other members of their team. Situations in which one has not interacted with the other team members but only knows them through common sources, bring along the hazard of borrowed perception. One should avoid creating a perception about other team member based on someone else’s feedback, or even worse, framing just the same opinion about a team member that some else has. To be an efficient team player one needs to be completely un-biased and non-judgemental towards their team members.
Empathy is another key driver that helps one be a great team player. While the forming phase is the coming together of different members, it is the storming phase where the trouble begins. Clashes of working styles, ideas and methodologies can leave the team members frustrated and demotivated. It is also during this phase that most teams dissolve. Empathy towards other team members can go a long way in keeping the team together and resolving conflicts. Understanding their concerns and negotiating a win-win working methodology that helps every individual put their best foot forward is the norming phase of team development. Setting up guidelines or the “norms” for the team that all team members agree to abide by happens during this phase.
A third driver that helps one sustain as a good team player is professionalism. Many times when the team reaches into the final phase of performing, the dependencies between team members increase. One team member might be the end user of the work done by the other team member. During instances like this, it is extremely important for one to maintain the same professionalism that one displays with a client. Clear expectations and timely communications help the team remain in the performing phase and deliver efficient results. Failing these, can lead to either project delays or time crunch for others in the team which in turn can lead to poor opinion about each other, reduced empathy and lack of trust. This pushes the entire team back to the storming phase where the team is again faced with possibilities of falling apart. There is a need to again resolve conflicts, re-negotiate working styles and methodologies, and again set up the norms for the functioning of the team.
One does not become a team player over-night. It takes patience and practice but once learnt, this attribute can help one progress to great lengths, both professionally and personally. Do share with us your experiences of working in a team and any valuable lessons learnt.