7 New Rules of Teamwork

Have you ever been on a team project where you didn’t make much of a mark?

Maybe you held back because you were new to the subject matter. Perhaps the group was overrun by domineering types. Maybe you found yourself in “observation mode” more than “participation mode.”

Whatever the case, if you think you’re immune to being judged by meeting performance, think again. One study showed that 84 percent of U.S. employees are “matrixed” to some extent today – that is, they work on multiple teams every day.

As smaller, quickly forming and disbanding teams are becoming more the norm, research shows teams are spending increasing hours together, not apart. I’ll be presenting one of my favorite sessions on this topic, The New Rules of Teamwork, at The Society of Women Engineers Conference ( WE18,) this month. We’ll tackle exactly how to size up a brand new team and make a memorable impression.

Here’s a quick taste of some of the strategies I’ll be sharing for being a standout teamer:

Show All the Way Up

In our distracted world, it’s easy to let your attention dip and slip in a meeting. Yet, people observe your engagement level and rightfully judge you for it. Whether you’re stuck on mute when called on to speak in a tele-conference or consumed with distractions while you “take meeting notes” on your laptop in a live meeting, people notice. Even your biggest efforts can be sabotaged when you don’t get the little things, like showing all the way up, right.

Encourage Shared Airtime

Research has shown that teams are more effective when members share airtime and make equal contributions to discussions. Yet how do you take matters into your own hands and engage a group when participation is uneven? Turn-taking and structured idea generation are just a few ways to get the most of team members. Not only does the group stand to gain from diverse thinking, your behavior can model that everyone has an equal say.

Avoid Collabotage

Gone are the days when a classic group brainstorm was the only way to tap people’s best thinking. Rather than enforcing collaboration as the sole method for teamwork, learn to encourage a team design that allows people a mix of formats. Include people with different work styles along with introverts and extroverts alike. Learn when to suggest people go off as pairs for example, brainstorm individually or come together as a whole.

Rally People Around a Cause

Research shows that teams can achieve the extraordinary when they shift mindsets from task- or project-based work to cause- or mission–based work. A mission or cause is lofty and felt palpably and it inspires people to make a big impact. Adding passion and pride to a team’s work drives better, more innovative outcomes but also fuels engagement.

Train People How to See You

At every turn on the job, you’re training people how to perceive you. Teams represent an ongoing way to actively shape how you’re seen — both strategically and on an everyday level. Everything from the language you choose to the kind of physicality you bring to meetings shapes how you’re known.

Challenge Directly & Don’t Be Talked Over

How many times have you looked back and thought, “I wish I stood up for myself more back there!” We all have such occasions – but by being prepared with a range of strategies to get back in the game, you can reassert yourself with ease. You can practice interrupting interruptions and becoming more of a direct, incisive communicator.

Leverage the Magic Ratio

Whether you realize it or not, part of your team role with any group is team steward. In fact, this distinction is often what differentiates a leader from ‘just a team member.’ Be a force that harnesses positive interactions among team members and take a leadership role in building the levels of openness and psychological safety felt by the team.

Let me know in the comments what you see top performers doing differently than most in teams!

Photo credit: Unsplash,  John Schnobrich

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani is a recognized consultant, speaker and author on women and leadership.  A seasoned human capital consultant, Selena uses workplace culture assessments to help corporate clients be more inclusive and welcoming to women.  She’s also the author of two leadership books targeted at professional women – Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—and Stand Up—for What They Want (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and The Next Generation of Women Leaders (Praeger, 2009). Selena has been featured in the LA Times, Oprah.com, Todayshow.com, Forbes, and wrote an award-winning column on women for The Washington Post.

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