May 31, 2020

The Most Important Element of Teamwork

Josh Gentine

While there is no "I" in team, you better bet that "knowing thyself" is perhaps the most important (and often overlooked) element of a team. When a team leader is unable to establish clear guidelines and expectations for their team, a host of ills can plague the team – including mission creep and a lack of role definition.

Mission creep is when an organization expands its mission beyond its original goals. It usually occurs during a crisis situation in which a rash decision is made and can impact internal goals, finances, and organizational reputation. It is important to note this is different from making strategic organizational shifts. In the instance of mission creep, the employees are unable to identify the mission of the organization and/or are unable to hold true to its values.

Lack of role definition occurs when employees do not have clarity in their work objectives and responsibilities, are not held accountable for their actions, and/or don’t understand the overall scope of their job. This lack of definition can also be found at an organizational level, when there is a lack of controls around things such as job design, work environment, and overall working conditions. Lack of role definition can cause stress at all levels of an organization.

What is often missed in these situations is the fact that teammates need to know themselves before they can truly show-up in an authentic – and effective – manner. Great teammates show up every day. They are defined by their actions, including the ability to:

  • Be self-aware. Self-awareness has several key components, including the ability to identify emotions, an accurate self-perception, recognition of personal strengths, the possession of strong self-confidence and self-efficacy.
  • Help others succeed. Help to cultivate the genius in others - rather than needing to be the expert. People tend to gravitate towards those who are will to help to seek inspiration and guidance.
  • Allow others to help. By being approachable, authentic, and open, these teammates help to build a positive environment of collaboration and inclusion.
  • Focus on shared interest. This will help build credibility, a positive reputation, and increase power within an organization.
  • Really listen. If you listen well, the path to becoming a better co-worker and team player reveals itself.
  • Treat everyone fairly. When you see everyone as an equal, the entire team benefits from collaboration and problem-solving. Ask questions such as “how can I help you” and “how can we work together.”
  • Promote different roles. Teams can’t be made up of only leaders –roles such as expert, agitator, novice, and translator carry equal weight on any team.
  • Ask for and give feedback freely. Employees might consider asking their peers for candid feedback on their strengths and weaknesses, as well as how they could become a better teammate.
  • Lead by example. Let your actions speak louder than words – don’t just talk about it, do it.

Leaders of teams are tasked with many priorities and asked to find solutions to many challenges in today’s business world. By knowing yourself, and those on your team, organizations can avoid the dual pitfalls of mission creep and lack of role definition and stay on the path to success. If you are struggling within your organization, reach out. Let’s discuss!

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