Your ability to work cooperatively with others is one of the most important skills you can ever develop if you want to achieve your full career potential. It is virtually impossible to reach the career heights of which you are capable, and to achieve your financial objectives without the ability to function well as a team member.
Teamwork is a simple and straightforward concept, but it is not easy. Being a good team player requires forethought, planning, and commitment. But there are things that you can do on an ongoing basis that can really help you, and bring you to the attention of people who can remove obstacles from your path and create wonderful opportunities for you.
You have to first make the decision to be an excellent team player in everything you do at work and at home. You should seek out every opportunity to demonstrate your ability to contribute to the success of a group of people in accomplishing greater objectives.
Let’s start off with the definition of team. A team is two or more people who combine their talents and abilities to accomplish a specific goal or series of goals. A team, by definition, is made up of men and women who are equals. They differ only in their areas of skill.
In this sense, you and your spouse are a team. You and your coworkers make up a team. When you volunteer in any charitable organization, all the people you work with are members of a team. If you have a social circle and you plan activities together, you are functioning as a team.
A team is formed to take advantage of the power of synergy. Synergy means that the total is greater than the sum of its parts. For example, let’s say that four individuals working alone will produce four units of work; when they are combined as a team, the four individuals may produce five, six, or eight units of work. Many jobs simply cannot be done by one person working alone, whether it’s carrying a heavy box or carrying out a major corporate project. A team needs to be formed whenever the task at hand is greater than the capacity of any individual working alone.
Virtually every business starts off with an idea in the mind of a single person. That person often works at home, at his or her kitchen table. He or she does everything, from manufacturing to packaging, to sales and marketing, to distribution, to collection of the invoices and payment of the bills. If the company is successful and grows, the amount of work to be done will become greater than the founder can do by himself or herself. Soon he or she will have to hire another person to help. At this point, the first team has been formed. Now the work can be divided, with the team member doing things that he or she is better qualified for while the founder does things that contribute to the greater growth and profitability of the business.
As the business continues to grow, more team members are added. People with additional but complimentary skills are brought on to the team to increase the overall potential of the group of people working together. During the Industrial Age there was a “command and control mentality. The approach to management was the hierarchy or pyramid style, with the president at the top, the senior executives below him, the junior executives below them, and so on, all the way down to the workers and support staff who made up the base of the pyramid. The orders traveled in one direction, downward. Information filtered up slowly. People were expected to do their job, collect their paychecks, and be satisfied.
However, with coming of the Information Age and the rapid change it has brought the approach to management has changed dramatically. People today must possess critical skills and knowledge necessary to many other people if the job is to get done on time and to an acceptable standard of quality.
To be successful today, you must know a lot about what is going on everywhere else, as well as being thoroughly conversant with what you do. And the fastest and most accurate way of keeping current with what is going on is to develop and maintain a network of contacts, an informal team of people within your workplace who keep you informed and who you keep informed as well.
Today, the old methods of the Industrial Age survive only at the old-line companies, many of which are fighting for their very survival. Today men and women want a higher degree of participation and involvement in their work. They want an opportunity to discuss and thoroughly understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. People are no longer satisfied to be cogs in a big machine. They want to have an integral role in achieving goals that they participated in setting in the first place.
Being a team player is no longer something that is optional. Today, it is mandatory. If you want to achieve anything of consequence, you will need the help and cooperation of lots of people. You need to be able to structure everything you do in such a way that, because you are constantly cooperating and working well with others, they are continually open to helping you achieve your goals as well.
The 80/20 rule holds true for teams of all kinds. Eighty percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the team members. To be successful, you need to be among the 20 percent. You must be able to throw your whole heart into contributing so that it is clear to everyone who is doing the work. Don’t worry about being taken advantage of. The people who stand back and let you do more than your fair share of the work are sabotaging their own careers and will end up only looking foolish.
Sometimes people resent doing more than their fair share. They feel that if others are shirking their duties, then they will do less, so that all the relative levels of contribution are even. But, usually, everyone knows who is really doing the work. Everyone is aware of who is making the biggest contribution. And the higher up you go, the more clearly you see below you, the more clearly you see the relative efforts and contributions of your subordinates.
You don’t have to worry about who gets credit. Just concentrate on putting in far more than you take out, and everything will take care of itself.
The major reason why teams do not function well, and why people end up not making their full contribution to the success of the teams, is lack of clarity. There has to be absolute clarity about what the team is trying to accomplish. This can be in the form of a goal or objective handed down by senior management, or it can be the result of discussion and participation by the various team members. In any case, everyone must know what is to be done, to what standard, by what deadline, and what the roles and responsibilities of each team member will be in the achievement of that goal.
You must be absolutely clear about exactly what is expected of you. If for any reason you are not sure, bring it up and ask about it until you have no doubt whatsoever. Then do exactly what is expected of you, and do it well.
Remember, in all your interactions with your team, you must be supportive and helpful. Do not challenge, criticize, or argue, but rather look for solutions and for opportunities to help other people make their maximum contributions as well. The best team members are always offering to help other people get on top of some aspect of their work. This focus on collaboration and cooperation will be seen by everyone and makes you stand out as a person to be liked and respected.
Continually look for opportunities to get onto teams and to make valuable contributions. Volunteer for additional assignments. Focus on high-priority tasks, and finish what you start on time. Do excellent work and always take the low road.
Cooperation, collaboration, communication, and teamwork are the waves of 21st century. By learning to work together well with others, you can advance rapidly and save yourself many years of hard work in achieving your financial objectives. You can gain the respect of the important people in your life. You can become an indispensable contributor to the goals of your corporation or organization. You can stand out from your coworkers and give yourself the winning edge in a competitive business world. You can become a master of change rather than a victim of change. You can become a creator of circumstances rather than a creature of circumstances. You can accomplish all your goals and move to the top of your career by becoming excellent as a team player in everything you do.
Copyright© 2005 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and achieve total success. He is the founder and CEO of JLM & Associates, a consulting and training organization, specializing in personal and business development. Through his seminars and lectures, Joe Love addresses thousands of men and women each year, including the executives and staffs of many of America’s largest corporations, on the subjects of leadership, self-esteem, goals, achievement, and success psychology.
Reach Joe at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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