By Robert Bacal, M.A.
More and more often, employees are expected to contribute to the performance and success of their work teams. While it sounds great on paper, it isn't all that easy to work in a team, since often team members are different in style, attitude, commitment and work ethic. If you are a work team member, supervise, manage or lead a team, take a good look at these tips and hints which will make it easier for team members to contribute more productively to their teams, and decrease friction among team members. Stay tuned to the Teamwork File, though, because we have more suggestions on this topic!
Often teams get bogged down in blaming members when things go wrong. As a team member you can do two things to stop this wasteful and destructive team behavior. First, eliminate blaming language you may use. Replace blaming and finger-pointing comments or questions with a focus on solving problems, or preventing problems. Second, if other team members get into the blaming cycle, step in and "turn" the conversation back to a constructive approach. For example, here's a good phrase: "Ok, maybe we could save some time here by trying to ensure that the problem doesn't happen again, so what can we do to prevent it next time?"
This is related to the blaming cycle. Don't dwell on the past. Use the past (successes and team failures) to help the team determine where they need to go to improve. You can't change the past -- you can only use it to learn from.
Talking about a team member in private with another team members usually involves a blaming process. While sometimes it's good to vent frustration about a fellow team mate, you shouldn't be doing it within the team. It's counter productive, and harmful. Stop doing it unless you have a specific, constructive reason for doing so.
Take responsibility for your behavior and the results that your team produces, but NOT the behavior of your team mates. When you take responsibility for another member's actions, you will tend to want to change your team mate, something that often creates dissension.
Finally, focus on YOUR contributions. Don't spend your time thinking about or telling team mates what THEY should be doing for the team. Think about what you can contribute, and how you can contribute more effectively. Then do it. For example, if you have a great suggestion, don't dump it in the group with the expectation that someone else will implement it. You offer to do it...after all it's your suggestion.
© Copyright Robert Bacal, 2000, www.work911.com