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Embracing a Team First Mentality Where Everyone Wins
When it comes to advancing in your career, it’s helpful to stand out from the crowd. You want to be memorable, you want to impress, and you want to demonstrate your unique abilities and talents that would make you the best fit for the job. There is a perceived risk that if you fit in with a team, you will disappear into the group and be passed over for promotions and other advancements in your organization.
Here is the deal – working in a team actually demonstrates a number of desirable traits and skills that make you better suited for a variety of roles! Unhealthy and unnecessary competition among team members never benefits the organization and certainly won’t benefit you. If you make things all about you, not only does the team suffer, but the final outcome can reflect negatively on you as well.
When it comes to teamwork, organized sports do it best. By looking at prominent sports personalities, we can find a mountain of great content and proof that teams are more effective. While there are still star players, their success would have been impossible without the support of their teams and the recognition that everyone has a role to play. Phil Jackson, a well known basketball coach once said, “good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We.”
Magic happens when you put aside the agenda of the individual for the good of the team. Here are five ways that you can start building a team first mentality in your organization.
1. Embrace the Greater Good
Understand your role… and rock it!
Going back to our sports example, co-captain Abby Wambach is arguably one of the most successful female soccer players in the world. She is decorated with medals and has an impressive collection of goals to her name. Why is it then that she spent most of the World Cup on the bench?
Abby understood her role and she led from the bench.
She didn’t need to be on the field to have an impact on the final outcome. She encouraged her teammates and helped them be successful. In the end, the whole team wins or the whole team loses. The common goal was a win and she understood that her place was to bring others up with her and not simply to stand out. This is the perfect example of embracing the common good in a way that everyone wins!
2. Share Credit
It is very rare that a great project is the doing of a single person, it takes a team to get things done. Depending on your organizational hierarchy, you may have a team of people submit a project to a manager who then takes it higher for approval. If once accepted, the praise and credit stops at the manager, resentment and distrust among the team will quickly follow.
This lack of credit sharing actually has a name: self-serving bias. Self-serving bias is common in toxic work environments and you have likely witnessed it first hand. Think of someone on your team who likes to take the credit for anything positive but is quick to shift the blame when there is a negative outcome. Sound familiar?
No one benefits when there is someone on your team with a self-serving bias so don’t be that person. Even if the higher up refuses to share, be that team member who takes a moment to recognize the hard work and contribution of others. Never underestimate the power of a thank you no matter what title you hold.
3. Contribute and Leave Space for Contribution
It isn’t enough to simply contribute your thoughts or energy to a project but you must also make space for and encourage contribution from your team. Make it a habit at every meeting to directly ask at least one person for feedback or ideas, especially those that may be more quiet or hesitant to share.
Who knows, they may be hoarding the best ideas and just need someone to value them enough to ask.
It isn’t enough to just ask though, you need to be sure that you practice appropriate responses to outside ideas. If you are good at asking for but never actually incorporate other people’s ideas, you might as well shoot yourself in the foot. Not all ideas will be appropriate but many will have value. The act of even considering someone else’s idea will help build trust and encourage that person to speak up again knowing they won’t be instantly shut down.
4. Set Clear and Reasonable Expectations
People perform better when they know exactly what you expect of them. Whether you are in a direct leadership position or not, being clear about the expectations you have for the people around will make everyone’s life easier.
Once you set expectations, it is important that you back off and avoid the urge to micromanage. If you have been clear, your team will fill in the blanks. Looming over their shoulders will only serve to send a message that you don’t trust them, even after you were clear on what you expected of them.
The key to setting reasonable expectations is your experience with doing the job or task that you are requesting of others. It is likely that you have been on the receiving end of a manager who has an unrealistic deadline about a project or task that they are unfamiliar with from the comfort of their corner office. If this is the case and you are in a position to set deadlines, reach out to the team and ask them what they think would be reasonable. Not only will this result in a more realistic timeline but it builds trust and sends the message that you have a team first mentality.
5. Feel Good Team Building
Don’t dis it until you try it.
One of the best ways to promote a team first mentality is to encourage camaraderie among members. Let them get to know each other outside of work related activities in a fun way!
While the mere words “team building” can elicit eye rolls, the studies are in and they show that they are a great way to build trust and encourage collaboration. It is important not to force team building, it must be organic to be truly effective. Get creative and consult with your team about activities that they may be interested in trying. If you are looking for inspiration, check out this blog on 10 Virtual Team Building Activities Your Employees Will Actually Want To Do for some great activities that you can try with virtual teams.
If you are able to meet in person, a quick Google search will give you more activities than you can shake a stick at. One activity that you will likely see included in just about every list of team building exercises is community service. Offering paid work time to have the team serve at a soup kitchen or even walk dogs from the local shelter is a great way to help people connect while also giving back.
Team First is a Worthy Investment
Fostering an environment where the team first mentality is the default will take time, energy, and patience. It is important to recognize that your efforts will have to be ongoing in order to be effective. Like any good relationship, it will require both inputs and outputs and all parties need to be contributing.
It is human nature to want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Create an environment where people can check their ego at the door and enter a room knowing that their team is there for support.
The result? A team where people trust each other, feel confident asking for assistance, and know that they are valued and that their contributions are meaningful and welcome.