What does it mean to be part of a team?

April 19, 2018
Quincy Johnson


Quincy Johnson

Digital Marketing Specialist at SoftwareONE | Linkedin

Historically, organizations have been built on the efforts of teamwork. If you break down any company into smaller pieces, you will find that together the individual teams act as the foundation to help the overall company achieve success.

What happens, however, when you break down the  dynamics of what it means to be a member of a team and the value that authentic  teamwork can bring? As we are painting this picture, imagine that each individual member is a bristle on a paintbrush, the team itself is the paintbrush and the work that each team does is the color that touches the canvas with every brush stroke.

Each team has their part in creating a masterpiece. However, without trust and accountability, what is meant to be art could turn out to be a muddled mess.

Why trust is so important

At some point in your career you’ve taken on a task that you felt you were fully confident to execute on.  When you delivered on your promise, you were able to step back and be proud of what you had accomplished. That felt amazing, right?

There is a flip side to this scenario. There may have been a time when you took on a task but felt like your efforts were diminished because another teammate or manager stepped in to take over without giving you ample guidance or opportunity to succeed.  This likely caused your confidence to plummet  and may have even made you feel either angry beyond measure, or made you retreat into a cave of non-contribution.

Trusting teammates when they express a desire to execute on a task is crucial. Not only does this build confidence all around, but it also  allows for you to focus your energy on the tasks at hand. Where your focus goes, your energy flows. Therefore, if each team member is not able to focus on his or her project in order to contribute to the bigger picture, then your teams brush stroke will reflect an indiscernible and sloppy brush stroke.

Building Trust

Building trust within teams in probably one of the hardest things to do, and most thought leaders on this topic would tell you the same. If building trust was a simple task, there would be no dysfunctional teams and the world would be a utopia.

Since building trust does in fact take work from all parties involved, what are some things that you can actively do to build trust within your team?

  • Understanding that on a team, everyone has the same goal, which is to drive the organization forward. Teams need to realize that they are not in competition with each other, and that being open to considering the ideas of others, versus the desire to be right, will prove beneficial in the end.
  • Being Inclusive will also help to ensure that teams are on the right track to building trust. Often times, individuals have brilliant ideas, but are closed off to share them due to intimidation or for fear of being shamed for being wrong. Creating a safe space where everyone can feel encouraged to contribute, and know that he or she are not any less of a person or a contributor even if their view is not right for the situation can only help an organization, not hurt.
  • Being Vulnerable, as a leader, but this can also apply for any member of the team. Gone are the days (at least hopefully) of the manager that mimics an authoritarian. Today’s team needs to rely on each other more than ever, so this means letting your guard down and admitting when you need help, that you aren’t an endless wealth of knowledge, and that you are not too good to help support an objective – as  opposed to stepping in and discounting another teammates efforts.

Holding each other accountable

Lack of trust, will eventually lead to anger and resentment, which will make for a toxic environment. In order to avoid a catastrophe, teams need to be able to hold each other accountable. Accountability is the bridge that will take teams from good to great.

Take our earlier reference, for example, where a teammate steps in and ultimately hijacks a project. There are at least two reasons when someone would just take the reigns. First, the person has a true desire to be in control and desires to take on everything. If this is the case, we have a different problem at hand. The second scenario is maybe the project is slipping or delayed and not living up to the standards that you have set as a team. This last instance is the time where teams need to step in and hold each other accountable.

Teams are perfectly in bounds if they see a project slipping to ask if that person needs help. Maybe there is a particular component that requires a different skill set, and the point person is hesitant to ask for help for fear of feeling incompetent. If there is a healthy environment allowing for open communication and an understanding that everyone is willing to help push goals across the finish line, then there will be no tension built when checking in on the status of a project.

Healthy accountability practices within a team will benefit everyone in the long run. Not everyone will be up all of the time, so in those times where they feel themselves slipping, they will need to lean on the team for support so that they can put forth their best effort.

Putting it all together

No one can paint the Mona Lisa out of the gate. Look at the way that children learn to paint, for example. They are taught with just learning how to put paint to paper. Then, as they progress in their education, they learn to apply techniques that transform their art into more distinguishable figures.

The same methodology applies to working as a team. Building trust is not done overnight and holding each other accountable can sometimes prove to be challenging, but the bigger picture will be that much more astonishing if teams can work towards building trust and accountability.

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