This is one of the biggest things that is overlooked when teams are trying to become more efficient. Implementing processes, changing software and even getting more team members to cater to higher demand is all for naught if they’re all not playing nicely together.
Getting everyone to play ball isn’t so easy though because of one simple fact… not everyone is a team player. Those that aren’t tend to fall into one of the following outlooks: They,
- Are in it for themselves
- Think everyone is out to get them
- Aren’t in it for anything at all
- Are in it for everything and everyone
- Feel entitled to everything
So what does it mean to be a team player and go with the flow, and how can we make improvements?
Let people work the way they want to
Everyone has their own way of working that suits them, just as everyone learns in different ways. They either consciously or subconsciously know what that is and mould and tailor what they do and how they do it to best suit that. It may be how they correspond with others or funny quirks they have in the completion of a process. The fact is that what they do might not work for you but it does for them. The same is also true for yourself, you might have your own way of working but that doesn’t mean it’ll work for someone else.
This fundamental fact needs to be accepted before everyone can play nicely.
Be open to new ideas
Just because you have your way of working doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. Two perspectives are always better than one. There’s a lot we can learn from each other so being open to this will go a long way. Suggestions should always be welcomed with open arms. Where being a team player in this sense can fall down is trying to make someone change instead of just suggesting improvements. There’s a big difference between suggesting an “improvement” and forcing an “improvement”.
Trust your team
It’s not your job to do everyone else’s job. Everyone is working together towards the same final goal so trust that they’ll be able to do the job that they were employed to do. No one likes feeling like they’re not capable or someone doesn’t trust them. It’s even more hurtful when it’s your profession that you’ve chosen to partake of your own free will. No one is ever out to intentionally hurt a project so take a step back and put a little faith in your teammates. Not only will it give them more freedom and power, but it’ll also give you more time to do your own job to a higher standard.
For more on this point, listen to ‘How an Agile mindset will get the best from your team‘ with Craig Brown on our ‘Humans Aren’t Robots’ podcast.
Keep it simple
This is all about not making things harder than they should be. Simplicity doesn’t mean just doing the bare minimum. Simplicity means doing what’s required in a straightforward manner, not fluffing about or making things convoluted for yourself or others. A good rule is; If you find yourself taking on additional work because it’s too hard for you to explain it to someone else then it’s probably too convoluted.
In organisations, complexity and processes can’t be helped sometimes. The bigger the organisation, the more this will occur. From security procedures to onboarding; these complexities exist because they haven’t been changed since the dinosaurs roamed or they are there to make sure all of the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed. This is something that generally can’t be challenged or changed so picking your battles and just getting on and doing it is the best way to play with the team.
Have Emotion and respect others
Respect others time, everyone’s time is as important. Everyone has to get their own work done at the end of the day.
Be polite, manners go a long way in building relationships and keeping them. No one can get angry at manners. Pleases and thank yous go a long way.
Be Nice, this isn’t actually required to be a team player but it does help to keep everything civil and flowing well.
Empathise, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is the best way to work with someone as it gives you insights you would never have otherwise.
Read more about how NOT to treat your team in ‘Management: the power of leading from the trenches’.
Every developer and designer can confidently say they have gone back and looked at one of their previous pieces of work and had the thought “Why did I do it this way?”. That’s fine, but we can’t always go back and change it and the same goes when you’re giving feedback, reviewing or helping someone come to a solution. Keeping on moving forward towards the team’s goals and keeping them in focus at all times lets each member of the team come together as one cohesive team. Learning from past “mistakes” is always good but don’t dwell on them and waste time on the past. The goal is always ahead of you and your team.
At the end of the day, there’s no reason you can’t be a team player! The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. If you’re a control freak then it may make you feel a little uncomfortable not having control over everything, but that’s something that will allow you to grow as a person so it’s worth working through.
Everyone is doing their best, but not everyone is a team player or as much of a team player as they could be. Everyone always has something to learn and improve on as the world is ever-changing.
But it doesn’t stop there…
You might have the perfect team, but are you working in the perfect environment? Check out ‘How to create a healthier, happier workplace‘ for some tips on creating the ideal office.