We've all had "those days" -- when we've been constantly interrupted by people with questions or crises, or phone calls about stuff that really isn't reducing our to-do lists, nevermind advancing our careers. The stress level builds and we get cranky, or blow up, or just want to get away from people. In short, we aren't the team players we should be.
Well, the other day I had one of "those days." A parade of people had been though my office with itty-bitty stuff they should have been able to handle themselves. The phone had brought nothing but problem after problem. I felt the stress building. Finally, another staff member came in with another problem, and I blew. Bad move.
After calming down, recognizing what I had done and why, and then apologizing, I realized I had violated one of the principles of effective teamwork: I'd said I was "too busy" to help someone else.
Although embarrassing for me and painful for my associate, the experience was worthwhile. It gave me a chance to acknowledge that teamwork is so very essential to any organization, and to review the attitudes and behaviors that can sabotage team efforts.
First on the list is, "I'm too busy." In my case, I wasn't really too busy, I just let stress get in the way of being a good team member. Of course, if one truly is too busy -- all the time -- he or she should ask a supervisor for additional help. Generally, however, "busy-ness" comes and goes, and if we can't help someone at a given moment, we should indicate when we might be able to do so.
Next is, "Give it to someone else." Ok, maybe someone else can do it, even better than we can. But don't we want to show our capabilities as often as possible? Why give someone else a shot at what we can do, and probably do well. Don't forget, promotions generally come to those who are team players
and "go-get-'em" employees.
Then there's, "Who dug up this dumb idea?" Now, that's pure negativity. If it's really a bad idea, that fact will soon become clear. But if it's a good idea, it doesn't matter who thought of it, we should consider ourselves lucky to be asked to work on it. And -- talk about a dumb idea -- we must never let the source of a particular project prevent us from working on it.
Another one is, "Why am I always assigned the new stuff?" Well, obviously someone thinks enough of us to assign us to a development project, or to train or mentor new people. To my mind, this is a compliment, and perhaps an ability worthy of a promotion or a raise at some point. Let's remember, each project done well, is usually a notch in the belt of a future promotion.
"It's my way, or the highway!" This often comes either from someone who has a hierarchical style of management, or from frustration or stress caused by a lack of decision making. But whatever the source, unilateral decisions, particularly voiced like this, are certainly not team based. Remember the old adage, "two heads are better than one?" Well, so are three or four or five heads better than one. This is consensus management. It's pretty much the standard for effectively managing any project or enlightened organization today, and it's what teamwork is all about.
Of course, let's not forget, "That person is impossible to work with." There always will be certain people with whom we may prefer to work than others. That's just the way the world works. But the true team player and professional will put personalities aside and get the job done, using the best talents available, or assigned to a task. If we really can't get along with someone, we should get some help from a conflict resolution practitioner or an arbitrator.
"This is just going to promote the boss." Sorry, but what's wrong with that? If the boss is promoted, that job will be vacant, and isn't that a career opportunity? Or, maybe the boss will take some of the team with him or her to the new assignment, with promotions and/or raises for all. Come on, folks, let's get the boss promoted!
Perhaps the worst of all is, "This isn't going to work." Again, this is pure negativity, and it simply isn't realistic. If things are planned well, there's a good chance of success, particularly if there is solid, experienced talent on the management team. Of course, if planning is not sufficient, we should point that out and the team should remedy the problem. But planned, pragmatic thinking is quite different than negativity.
Lastly, there's, "This is a stupid project." Unless we are CEOs of organizations, we may not know how a particular project fits into the grand plan. So such a comment is pretty stupid in itself. Before making such statements, let's check out the thinking of others on the team and try for a consensus. After all, that's the essence of teamwork.
By definition, teamwork is the effort of many toward a common goal. Work done by many hands can make the work lighter and better. But we all must remember that the stress we sometimes feel due to the press of daily life should not stop us from being good team players. A team is nourished from a common pot, but we all must add to that pot if we all want nourishment.