I have worked on diverse teams throughout my career. Some teams were more challenging than others. I have even worked on teams that seemed close to perfect but it took some work to get there. If you are reading this, you probably consider yourself an ambitious person who genuinely wants to make notable contributions to your work environment. So, how can you make your mark on a team when the situation is not ideal?
Feeling like you are not being heard: I always want to contribute to a team by bringing expertise and fresh ideas. However, I have been on a few teams where it seemed that no matter how many times or how loud I said it, my ideas were not acknowledged. Without patience, it is easy to shut down, counting the days until the project is complete. In these situations, I have found that it is best to determine how you can contribute and just do it! You may just need to accept that your value on some teams (or projects) may be higher, or just different, than it is on others. You may not end up with the most desirable role but accepting what you need to do will likely make the team more productive in the long run.
When one team member is not carrying his/her weight: Having a solid project plan with clear roles and responsibilities helps clarify expectations. However, encountering unbalanced situations is imminent. Try to give the person the person the benefit of the doubt. Are they just really busy? Do they not really understand the subject matter? Is there an underlying political situation at play? I have found that it is helpful to pull the person aside in a non-threatening way and offer help or extra direction. Sometimes, reallocating workload can help as well. The luxury of finding and onboarding a replacement is not always available so try to confront the situation if possible.
When you have a hijacker on board: We have all been there. One person seems to be coming up with all the ideas and vision and is fearlessly dictating responsibilities to the rest of the team. In these situations, it’s important to listen and observe more than judge. Also, try to understand the motivation of the person. Are they trying to get promoted? Are they new and want to make a mark? Did they just fail on another project? Are they just a huge talker? Understanding motivation can help paint a more accurate picture about the person’s motives which are not always selfish. Remember that the four stages of team development are the following: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing1. Conflict is going to happen. Keep in mind that the level and type of contributions each teammate makes evolves throughout the project. A person that seems to be “taking over” in the beginning may just have more expertise on that particular subject matter at that time. This may not be the case during other phases of the project.
Flexibility, openness and support are all important when working on a team. Nobody wants to work with a nuisance. It’s true that great ideas come by rejecting the status quo so discernment is still important. Try to be who you desire to work with and you will create the work situation that you desire. Over time, I found I am much more successful if I remember everyone is working towards one common goal. If the team fails, I fail.
LaTonya Wilkins is a Workforce Pro that specializes in Talent/Career Management & Organizational Development. You can view her blog at www.workplace-wonders.com or follow her on Twitter (@LaTonyaWilkins).
Category: Personal Branding