We hear it over and over again, how important it is to work in a team. Sometimes it can be frustrating, sometimes annoying, sometimes incredibly rewarding. So what differentiates a team that produces outstanding work, compared to those who just wish it was all over?
Let’s dive a little more into effective communication, empathy, trust and feedback. I’ve touched on these topics before, but it’s important to see how they connect to each other.
Why is this so critical? Because being able to clearly articulate your thoughts, feelings and expectations is paramount to successfully working in a team. Here are a few tips to practice when working in a team:
- Start with why – have a set intention for the project.
- Have consistent meetings and keep each other updated.
- Make sure the goals are clear for each responsible party.
- Have metrics in place to ensure that people are held accountable.
- Be honest when you’re stuck or confused.
- Give constructive feedback regularly.
It’s always valuable to have your intentions aligned at the very beginning of a project. This ensures that all members understand the purpose of working together and have a common objective.
The second point talks about having consistent meetings. This has been tremendously beneficial for me, especially working from home. Having a set routine for meetings, where the minutes are being taken, allows people to constantly stay up to date with what’s going on. It also means you can regularly discuss any ideas or setbacks that you’re facing.
Ensure that once you’ve delegated certain roles, the goals for each member are accurate. They know exactly what to prepare before the internal deadline. This doesn’t necessarily mean they know what to do from the get-go, but they need to know what they’re working towards.
Have metrics in place to ensure that those goals are being met. Whether it’s a page of the report, a programming code, a section of the simulation, anything really. When the metrics are known, they can be held accountable.
Getting frustrated or stuck is an evitable aspect of project work. What’s important here is to make sure you’re speaking to other people about what’s going on. Perhaps they could help you or refer you to someone who could. When all group members understand where the other person is (in terms of progress), it makes it easier for them to feel comfortable and confident in the work being done (or not). This requires a great deal of trust and empathy.
I’ll discuss feedback in a little more detail further below, but it’s an important part of communication too. You need to criticize well on a regular basis, to improve the quality of the overall work.
Empathy and listening
Ahh, emotional intelligence strikes again. Being empathetic is crucial to any important relationship you have in your life. When you can make the other person feel heard and understood, it opens up the door to vulnerability and honesty.
When you see that people aren’t delivering or struggling to meet internal deadlines, try and understand things from their perspective. Are there any problems going on behind the scenes? Are they feeling unusually stressed or anxious? Maybe they’re having issues at home?
Being a good listener plays a critical role here. You need to remain mindful, curious and nonjudgmental when holding the space for other people. I think this is a great leadership quality; allowing people to ask silly questions and truly speak to you about what’s on their mind.
This essentially builds on the previous topic. Trust is formed through active listening and being reliable. You need to commit to your word and show up when you promise to. Things are never going to be perfect, but you need to show other people that you are capable of delivering up to the expected quality.
Trust also involves a certain level of integrity. When you respect the team boundaries, when you don’t unnecessarily expose other people’s flaws, when people feel comfortable being vulnerable.
I need to trust you to deliver. I need to trust you not to share everything I bring up to you. I need to trust you to be there for me when I’m struggling. I need to trust you to give this your very best.
I’ve also spoken about this before on my post ‘The Psychology of Motivation‘. Delivering feedback and constructive criticism is an extremely important part of the development loop. You have to show people what’s working and what isn’t. You need to constantly update the expectations and ensure everyone is learning from their mistakes.
This is a really difficult process. For both, the person giving the feedback and for the person receiving it. However, if you’ve managed to successfully build trust, empathy and effective communication, it makes it a little more bearable.
Remember why feedback is important. It’s to help the other person develop and improve the quality of their work. When giving feedback, always bring up what’s working well first. Remind them of their strong points. Make the other person understand that you’re doing this to help them. Be as objective as possible. Offer support where you can to help them out too.
When you’re on the receiving end, keep an open mind. Watch out for your ego. Don’t see it as an attack or a source of demotivation. You can’t expect to be perfect every time. Absorb the wisdom given by your peers, they see things that might be in your blind spot.
Don’t take things personally.
To put it all together, you’re going to work in a team whether you like it or not. No one can do it on their own. Despite how independent or solo your work may seem, there are always people you will need help from. Integrating certain tools can help you work more effectively with people, especially if you’re striving to be a great leader.
Ensure that constant communication is in place. Hold the space for people to speak to you about what’s truly bothering them. Build the relationships on a foundation of trust and integrity. Give constant feedback so that everyone can improve.
“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right”
Keep trying your best. If it’s challenging and difficult, it means you’re on the path to growth. You got this.