Magazine article Talent Development

Individual-Based Teamwork. Teamwork Isn't Just a Group Process. This Time, It's Personal

Magazine article Talent Development

Individual-Based Teamwork. Teamwork Isn't Just a Group Process. This Time, It's Personal

Article excerpt

That example shows how, contrary to traditional belief, teamwork isn't just a group process. It's also a personal responsibility and skill, especially in this new and flatter work world of teams, partnerships, and collaboration. Nowadays, all work is teamwork, and the challenge is to perform well when having to share the responsibility to get something done with other people over whom you have no authority.

Here are several key guidelines for working responsibly with others no matter who reports to whom.

Develop your ability to respond. It's helpful to make a distinction between accountability and responsibility. Accountability is an agreement to be held to account for some result. Responsibility is a feeling of ownership. You can assign accountability between yourself and others, but responsibility can only be self-generated. Responsibility means to completely own--rather than deny, blame, or rationalize--your situation.

Think of the cause-effect equation. Instead of seeing yourself as the effect and something else as the cause, responsibility means seeing yourself as both cause and effect of your situation.

Accept that your past choices placed you in your current situation. Also accept that you are in complete charge of your learning, improving, and growing in order to produce the results you want. Several years ago, the Eagles had a hit called "Get Over It," in which they railed against blaming others for one's misfortune. The only true way out of a fix is to get over it and develop your ability to respond--call it, your response-ability.

Commit to exercising your responsibility every day. That may sound odd--as if, like any competency, responsibility can be developed. But the personal and professional rewards are substantial. Affirm, "I choose to be 100 percent responsible for every aspect of my life and work."

Retain your personal power.

Individuals can make a huge difference in the dynamics of a team, but most people don't accept their power to make or break a collaborative relationship. The most frequent excuse I hear for poor performance from otherwise highly skilled professionals is, "I got put on a bad team." To that I say, "How did you know the team was bad before you got there?"

Retain your personal power by treating every action and decision that affects you as one to which you consent. No action or decision can stand unless you allow it. Gandhi said that what people most fear is not their lack of power but rather their abundance of it. Speak up when you disagree with your team's purpose and direction. Understand that going along without passion or commitment takes your team where no member wants to go. Worse, complaining about other team members behind their backs is treasonous to team relationships and will earn you little respect or trust. When you have an issue with a teammate, the most productive response is to state your concern directly to him or her so the two of you can resolve it.

To build your personal power, make only agreements--no matter how small--that you fully intend to keep, Then consistently improve your ability to do that. When you fail to honor an agreement, clear it up with the other person at the first opportunity by acknowledging that you didn't keep the agreement, apologizing for not coming through as promised, asking how you can make amends, and recommitting to the relationship.

Increase your provocability.

Here's an actual scenario: When the team leader walked into the meeting eight minutes late and asked if everyone was ready to start, Ned said, "No." He then addressed the leader in a compassionate and even tone, "There's something I need to check. We all agreed to start and end team meetings on time. Everyone else was ready to start the meeting on the hour. Do we need a new or different agreement with you about this?"

Ned was obviously provoked, and the team leader recognized that Ned had good reason to be. …

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