Written with JoAnn McNutt
When I think about the best experiences I’ve had working in teams, what comes to mind is the feeling of satisfaction and the sense of accomplishment that comes out of hard work, stress, and lots of laughter.
What makes the team experience so great is a combination of several factors. But the most important factor is how I feel about myself during the group (team) process. The group experiences that are most memorable are the ones in which I feel that I had made significant contributions.
In many ways, it’s up to the individual whether or not s/he has a positive or negative team experience. We often think too highly of how others relate to us, but with a conscious effort, we as individuals can make the ultimate difference in how we affect the group process and outcomes. This means that we have to make a commitment, to ourselves and to the members of the team, to do “our part”.
Here’s what I think it means to do “our part”:
- Decide to accept your team members as they are. Although it’s much easier said than done, we need to consciously decide to accept others. If we wait around for our feelings to dictate whether or not we’re going to like someone on our team, it might be too late. Go into your next team assignment with a commitment to accept others as they are. Try it! Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.
- Be honest in the moment. Sometimes, things do matter and it bothers us. Speak up! Don’t wait until the team has already made the decision. Make sure you’re honest with yourself and others throughout the entire team process. But remember that it’s all in how you say it.
- Be humble. Be humble by suspending judgment of others and their ideas, opinions, and suggestions. Give people the benefit of the doubt that their ideas are brilliant and give them the opportunity to express themselves. When they do the same for you, you’ll realize just how important it is to be given this respect.
- Remember that others’ worldviews are as just as right as yours. As you go through the team process, remind yourself that the way you view your world is not the only way. In fact, when you look through the lens of others, your world will be much more richer and clearer.
- Encourage your team members. No team is without disagreements and miscommunication. But when these things happen, you have a choice to make this a learning opportunity and grow, or perpetuate the cycle. With a little bit of encouragement and commitment from all the team members, teams can move forward and accomplish great things.
“Doing our part” simply acknowledges that we are, indeed, empowered to make a difference in our teams. Be aware of how we act and treat others. Being a team player that is accepting, honest, humble, and encouraging, is a conscious decision we all need to make.