As a team member, what are the characteristics required of you to be perceived as a valued, contributing and positive force on that team? Be…
- Engaged. Demonstrate a willingness and desire to advance the team’s goals by proactively seeking to add value to the work that the team is performing. Don’t wait for someone to assign tasks to you, be a self-starter. Seek to understand the objectives of the team and volunteer to take on tasks that are within your ability to perform; and don’t shy away from tasks that may stretch you a bit.
- Action-oriented. Have a bias for accomplishing work that provides value, avoiding the "analysis paralysis" trap. This does not mean taking hasty action, such as bypassing research and planning. Both can add value, but seek to understand what you need and how much is really required. There is no such thing as perfect information or a perfect plan, and you should move forward when you have sufficient information; seek advice from those with experience to help define “sufficient” for your situation.
- Committed. Make a commitment to delivering value by a certain date. Through engagement, action and commitment you will become a contributing team member. This includes making sure that the team as a whole is pulling together to meet its overall commitments. If you are confused about what constitutes value to your team, by all means ask the question!
- Accountable. Hold yourself personally accountable for meeting your commitments and hold others to meeting their commitments. If there are problems, inquire about what is causing a problem – but keep the discussion depersonalized. Accountability is expressed as “I will…” and not, “I’ll try…”
- Collaborative. You need to be someone who is both a good listener and willing to speak your mind. Engaged team members understand the work, form opinions and voice their opinions. It is not in the best interest of the team to have a select few (or one) forming opinions and driving direction. Keep in mind that when there are multiple opinions in play, others may have different perspectives based on their experiences and understanding. There very well may be aspects all of the opinions that should be considered.
- Adaptable. The business world is a dynamic, fluid world, and the needs and dynamics of one team will likely be different than other teams. Be prepared for changes in priorities and be coachable – you may need to adapt your personal style for the good of the team.
- Supportive. Teams are comprised of individuals with complementary skills, and there will be times when individuals will be operating outside of their comfort zone. Support people by providing assistance in the form of guidance and coaching, but do not cross the line into carrying someone else’s load (this disrupts accountability). Be supportive of the team in general as well, including its goals and methods. Bad-mouthing the team to others will come back to haunt you, and demonstrates a lack of commitment to the team. If something is making you uncomfortable, talk to the team about it, and in necessary, find a way to remove yourself from the team.
- Transparent. Be open about any issues and the progress of your work, particularly when you are working on a task independently. Your teammates cannot support you if they have no visibility into your work, and you will deny yourself the opportunity for valuable input from others.
- Honest. Be truthful and sincere, and by all means keep your word!
- Trusting. To be a good teammate, you must be able to trust those on your team to “play their positions.” If all team members have the above behaviors, there is no reason not to trust them. If there are problems, talk about them in an open, honest, no-personal way. Explore why there is a breakdown and what can be done about it.
Leadership is a quality that is spread throughout the behaviors; leadership emerges to the degree in which someone is committed, collaborative, etc. Leadership can also take other forms, such as possessing and sharing deep domain knowledge or (more than likely) a combination of both knowledge and behavior.
Continuous learning/improvement is a trait that can and should be embraced by both individuals and teams. Individuals should have something to contribute to a team, and continuing to learning more about your profession will increase the value of your contributions to a team. Personal and professional growth exhibits engagement in your chosen profession. In addition, teams should never be satisfied with their status quo, but should always be asking, “How can we operate better?”