There is no I in ‘TEAM’ : Things to know about being in a team to save heartburn later.

Sandeep ‘Rigid’ Reddy was full of emotions when he nervously woke up his teammates. True, he was the only one who had at least an ounce of consciousness left to keep going when they all succumbed to sleep one by one. But that is no excuse for single-handedly destroying half a day’s work by drilling a hole in the wrong place when Robocon was just a day away. His teammates woke up and went back to where they left it, to rebuild the robot, not showing any sign of what just happened. While Sandeep was extremely lucky to have been in the right team, all of us might not be as fortunate as him. Read further for some tips on how to make whole more than sum of parts.

Being in a team
1. Being open
Being open is the first step of being a good teamplayer. Don’t lie to your doctor, lawyer and fellow teammember. And it is not just work either. If you feel pressured by factors beyond your control, like a paper that your professor has assigned you suddenly, feel free to share. Burying everything deep down and letting your performance sink would not help you or the team.
2. Listening
We all know communication is essential in any group endeavor. Communication is a two way process. One has to be an effective talker and a patient listener. Most people seem to get the hang of conveying what they have in their mind, through oral and visual means. But we usually don’t consider listening as a process that needs participation from our part. Listening is not equal to not-stuffing-your ears-with-cotton. It is hearing and more importantly absorbing what you heard and hence something that puts your greycells into work.
3. Knowing where to draw the line
Some people think all their opinions should be accepted everywhere; some others think none of their views are worth voicing anywhere. Neeti Bhalla Rahman of Proof of Performance Data Services says

Be assertive, but be careful to become neither a yes-man nor all too aggressive.

Knowing how to draw the distinction is key to a team’s success.
4. Keeping your eye on the prize
Being focused can help you to stay united as a team. It is important to make sure that each team member knows what the end product would be, rather than just his or her own contribution. US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2005 survey says that over 20% of the employees are alienated in the workplace. The ‘Modern Times’ and conveyor belt production are things of past now and it is proven that productivity soars when employees are close to the product and close to each other.
5. Division of labor
An old folksong goes like “Everybody said that nobody would do all the good things somebody should do”. True, if things are left for ‘someone’ to do, they are going to be left undone. A clear and fair division of labor for even the minutest thing is necessary for the work to get done neatly and in time.
6. Managing Conflicts
Conflicts are part of the game since we are men and women of flesh and blood, and not thinking robots. Many factors including the way we are brought up and the way we respond to crisis can be the reason for differences. But always make it a point to be clear about why you are disagreeing. And don’t keep the differences bottled up. Voicing them at the right time and in the right way could save heartburns later.
7. Nurturing inter-personal relationships
A team needs to have faith in itself, and faith is never accidental. Have trust in your fellow worker’s ability to deliver and convince him/her of the trust you have. Nurturing intra-team relationships outside the office also would make the bonding more effective. Neeti says being pitched against the nature on a recent rafting trip with her core team made them bond stronger and it resulted in more productivity and harmony in the workplace.
Remember, gossiping is a strict no-no. Talking behind someone’s back would present you in poor light and earn you people who gossip behind your back.
8. Being responsible
Teams call for super-responsible members since it is not your esteem and promises at stake, but you teammates too. Deliver what you have promised on time and in the way you have promised it. It is a great way of earning respect too and gives you the right to criticize others since you have to be without sin to cast the first stone.

Leading a team
As Sandeep put it rightly, a leader should be the first to take blame if anything goes wrong and last to get praise for things that go right. Leadership is not about deep commanding voices or impressive speeches either. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mukesh Ambani are examples of introvert leaders. Being accommodative, acting above personal interests, constantly motivating your team members and most importantly taking pains to go that extra mile can make a good leader. As Eisenhower said

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

The need for different approaches
There is no such thing as a set-piece strategy when it comes to teams. They come in many varieties, some are multicultural and you will have to take into account the cultural sensitivities. Some would be the result of mergers and getting rid of the awkwardness in the air should be the primary priority. Nowadays many teams don’t see eye-to-eye at all. Coordinating teams virtually is a herculean task as real-time interaction is not possible. To be in each kind of team, you need to emphasize on  different set of skills though the primary principle, which is to share both the blame and the praise, remains the same.

To sum up, all you need to do to be an effective and efficient team player is, to put it in simple words, to take the M out of ME and give a little flip to make it a W and keep in mind that Together Everyone Achieves More.

Thanks Sandeep, Ex-Co Carricular Affairs Secretary, IIT Madras and Neeti Bhalla Rahman, Proof of Performance Data Services.

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