Medium 9781576751558

Teamwork Is an Individual Skill

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Knowing how to work effectively in and through groups may be the single most important skill anyone can develop in today's collaborative, team-based workplace. Unfortunately, all of the resources available on teamwork put the emphasis on group process and ignore the role of-and benefits to-the individual. But effective teamwork isn't only a group skill set; it's an individual skill set as well. Teamwork Is an Individual Skill shows readers how to develop the skills to thrive on any team, under any circumstances. No longer will readers find themselves complaining, "I got assigned to a bad team." Instead, they'll know what to do to make any team work for them.
Drawing on over twenty years of experience successfully developing professional teams in product development, R&D, and high-tech environments, Christopher Avery and his coauthors use brief thought-provoking essays, personal and teambuilding exercises, case studies, and insights from business leaders to teach readers how to build responsible and productive relationships at work. The authors show how and why your ability to assume personal responsibility-for your own work on a team and for the team's collective work-is the most important factor in ensuring a productive team experience.
Teambuilding, the authors point out, is essentially a series of conversations between people who share responsibility to get something done. Teamwork Is an Individual Skill describes the way these conversations typically progress, and shows the reader how to predict and direct these conversations so that they can maximize the benefits to both themselves and to their team.
Designed for easy access and for use by both individuals and groups, Teamwork Is an Individual Skill will equip readers with the mental skills and behaviors that will help them achieve personal goals while contributing to their team's success.

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1 Teamwork As an Individual– Not Group–Skill

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When I close my eyes and imagine a workplace in which all employees are totally responsible for their team experiences and results, I see several conditions that have made this possible:

To create and sustain this kind of workplace—not just in the imagination but in everyday experience—requires each of us to take personal responsibility for the ways we participate in teams. While this sounds simple enough, it is much easier to say than to do. Otherwise, I wouldnt have 23
24 to close my eyes to imagine such a place. Despite their differences, I think most people actively desire to work in these kinds of teams. We all value clarity, reciprocity, and interdependence. The problem is not all of us know how to create and maintain the circumstances that support them.

For example, my companys executive team recently was defining our business strategy for the year with the help of an outside consultant. As we debated how best to prioritize approaches to growing our subscriber base, most people said our top priority should be pursuing new customer segments. I took the position that our first priority should be retaining current customers, then adding new customers on top of the existing base. Although this position was initially put down, I stuck with it. Little by little, other members of the team began to incorporate customer retention into their push for growth, and our final approach was richer, broader, and deeper because of my willingness to stand by a less than popular opinion.

 

2 Creating Powerful Partnerships

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People who can consistently create powerful relationships at work are people who are good teamworkers. In my experience, their central characteristics include:

In other words, people who create powerful relationships at work are people with good leadership skills.

Developing powerful collaborations at work requires us to focus on personal relationships—that is, the human side of conducting business. Experience has taught me that I 55
56achieve my greatest success when I provide others with opportunities to excel by using their special skills and talents.

In todays economy, organizations can remain adaptive and agile only by maintaining powerful and successful relationships with other organizations. Part of this process includes acknowledging that people see things differently and contribute to partnerships differently. Homogeneity and unity leads very soon to complacency and decline, particularly in a global marketplace. Different perspectives are integral to organizational health and to partnering success.

 

3 Collaborating “on” Purpose

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An organization in which everyone is collaborating powerfully and on purpose is a thing of beauty.

On a well-run team, team members are focused on a clearly understood, shared goal. Little or no time is spent on wheel spinning and low-yield activities. Team members get more done in less time, and technical expertise isnt the only factor fueling the teams efforts. Commitment to a common task drives the success of the team.

How do we set up and support teams to function this way? My own experience has taught me that the most powerful force for success in teamwork is intense commitment from each participant. I was at SEMATECH from 1989 to 1996, and during the early part of my tenure the company had a single, overriding, clearly articulated mission—to rescue the U.S. semiconductor industry from the threat of foreign domination. Each project we launched was designed to move the industry in the direction of that goal. To accomplish it, participants set aside their short-term parochial interests in service to the larger, overriding goal.

 

4 Trusting Just Right

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Learning to trust just right can make any relationship better. Although trust is something that is hard to establish and even harder to maintain, it is arguably the most vital resource a company has to draw upon in order to support and sustain long-term working relationships in the new economy. Trust may be the most critical component of global business, for instance.

Its a simple, hard truth. When we are working in teams, no matter how carefully we plan, lack of trust can sabotage our success. Over the course of my career, I have learned that people motivated by accomplishments are the least likely to conceal their agenda, and so, are the most likely to deserve our trust. I tend to trust people motivated by accomplishments more than people motivated by personal ambition.

Experienced leaders can usually tell when people are working on the basis of hidden agendas. But not always. Some people are able to hide their agendas even when those agendas demand that the person work against team goals. Oftentimes, these people believe their agenda is more important than the groups agenda, and their failure to communicate this belief can be devastating to a groups success. When someone has ambitions contrary to the groups goals, the group cant afford to allow that person to participate in a collaborative environment. That person could compromise the environment for everyone.

 

5 The Collaborative Mindset

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Soon after joining Human Code, I found that the company culture had been damaged. Employee and executive morale was low. Communication was poor. Looking for support and direction, we subscribed to TeamWisdom Tips and used the weekly issues as a point of discussion for our meetings. This taught us a new way of management, focusing on shared purpose, team effort, and trust combined with personal responsibility. TeamWisdom Tips helped all executives build stronger interpersonal skills. We now experience almost zero attrition, very high morale, substantially increased productivity, and significantly improved financial results. (To subscribe to TeamWisdom Tips, send a blank email to TeamWisdom-On@partnerwerks.com, or visit www.partnerwerks.com

Our vision of the workplace at Human Code is of a scaleable design studio—creative communities of artists, poets, and engineers. In the ideally collaborative culture, employees all hold themselves accountable for successfully completing commitments. All hold shared accountability for success when teams are involved. Blame, politics, and envy do not creep in because employees have high mutual regard for each other and because any conflict that does arise is handled with fair process. We each make honest, authentic commitments to others and to the community. We are frank with ourselves and with each other and avoid commitments that we can not or will not fulfill. If a relationship breakdown occurs, we are of high enough integrity to identify the breakdown and do what it takes to repair the relationship.

 

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