Talk to any hiring manager and you’ll hear that it’s hard to find people with the skills the company needs. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that in addition to the “hard’ skills is the issue of “soft” skills which enable people to become effective members of high performing teams.
Teamwork requires more than simply collaborating within teams in the sense of people taking on specific roles as specified by a division of labor (e.g., assembly line work). It requires teaming: communicating and collaborating with people across boundaries, such as expertise, seniority, experience and/or distance, spontaneously and continuously. Today, authority and power often give way to Influence as a teaming tool. (Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, provides many valuable insights.)
This involves several skills:
- Understand the big picture. Know the team’s strategy (mission and goals) and each component’s individual strategies. Align your own efforts with those of others, so both individuals and the team “win” simultaneously.
- Initially, over-communicate, so you and your team members hear and understand each’s perspectives. Have empathy, understand the emotions and logic behind differences. Negotiate areas of conflict to reach a collaborative framework.
- Manage up, across and down. When people leave school for a full-time job, they may have had prior part-time experience, in which their boss “managed down”. This includes setting responsibilities, enabling you to execute your skills, develop new ones and give you feedback. Today, working effectively with a team means learning how to work more effectively with your boss (managing up) and work with the team members (managing across). Understand expectations being set for you and discuss what you need to effectively do your job. Don’t make assumptions: check and double check that you’re on the same page with everyone else. Feedback and adaptation is essential for effective teaming.
What are your experiences with school graduates joining the workforce when it comes to being effective team members? How do you help them learn “teaming”? Share with us!