Anyone who has worked in information technology for any length of time has probably been asked to join a project team. Working with a group of colleagues can be fun, as teams become infused with camaraderie and a shared sense of mission. But being a group participant can also be challenging, especially for technology workers whose interactions are often focused on a computer screen.
Nonetheless, the ability to collaborate with others is an essential skill in the IT world. If you can't work with others on a project team, your ability to take on positions of ever-growing importance in your organization may be hampered.
How do you move from working as an "I" to a "we"? Here are six secrets of great team members:
No one wants to be on a team with someone who considers himself the smartest person in the room. Teams are brought together, after all, because organizations need people who can bring a mix of skills and strengths to bear to solve problems.
Don't join a group boasting about your aptitude with a particular technology or how adeptly a past work team handled a similar challenge. If you are really the smartest person in the room, your teammates will discover that on their own.
You have probably heard the saying, "There is no I in team." Once you become part of a team, you have to shift your thinking from being self-focused to concentrating on what's best for the group. This means temporarily setting aside your preferred modes of operating and adopting the rules, protocols and work practices of the team.
If, for instance, you do your best work at the last minute, you may have to begin to work in advance so others on the team can weigh in before a deliverable is due.
The best team members don't always need to be heard; they are comfortable participating through listening. As a result, they are usually the ones who are the most informed about where the team stands and who is handling what.
Although there are times when you should speak up, listening more than you talk is hardly ever a negative. In a team environment, there are always going to be people who compete to be heard. Those who listen well are rarer and potentially much more valuable.
Rather than becoming defensive, successful team members understand that useful critiques are an opportunity to improve the end product, and that goes for whether they are giving or receiving constructive criticism.
Too often, group members hide behind the shield of a team. They may not take the responsibility they would if they alone were responsible for the outcome of a project. But the best team members are as serious about their shared responsibilities as they are about their individual ones.
Working with a group of people means that not everything will proceed smoothly. Setbacks will occur, goals will be altered, and the team may have to change directions.
The next time you are asked to join a project team, keep in mind that although a team achieves its goals as a group, its strength is derived from its individual members. Do your part to observe these practices, and you will quickly develop a reputation as an indispensable team member.
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