Teamwork is a Skill. It Takes Practice!

Everyone wants to lead, or be a member of a high-performing team. That’s why you’ll see organizations putting a lot of effort into defining roles, setting goals, and hiring the right people. But not every team engages in teamwork, and throwing together a great bunch of people offers no guarantee that they’ll work together productively.

“There are a whole set of skills to being a part of a team,” says Ann Quiroz Gates, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at El Paso. “Our education typically does not include frameworks for learning and practicing how to work in teams. We are expected to know how to do it.”

In a recent women’s leadership webinar, I interviewed Gates, who has researched how effective scientific and engineering teams are built, and asked her to describe some common barriers to teamwork.

Here are four reasons why teamwork breaks down.

1) Team members are in it for themselves.

One pitfall, according to Gates, lies in not recognizing that one’s success is dependent upon the success of other members of the team. High-achieving teams understand that “we’re in this together” but teams fall apart when people are in it for themselves.

When team members approach their work with a “me-first” mentality, Gates says, “You are not building positive interdependence and recognizing that the success of the project is dependent upon everyone contributing.”

To create a team culture that fosters high performance, remind people that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves, and that driving toward team success is more important than individual wins.

2) The team does not acknowledge each member’s contribution.

“You have to know and acknowledge what everyone brings to the team,” says Gates. “And there are so many skills that make a difference.” Teams break down when there’s no recognition of the ways in which team members contribute.

It’s important to notice, understand, and acknowledge each individual’s contribution. “Ask yourself, ‘How do I acknowledge what people bring?’” advises Gates. ‘What were people doing that made the team effective? How do I recognize their contributions?’”

3) People don’t listen to each other.

Another behavior that adds to a team’s demise is not listening. In high-performing settings, Gates observes, there’s often someone who is truly listening to the other team members. “Perhaps, they’re paraphrasing what someone says or validating what they have said,” says Gates.

Gates discovered that training in listening skills can have a big impact on a team’s effectiveness. “Encourage the group to take time to think about what a person is trying to convey, before coming up with reasons why that won’t work or why that’s not an appropriate approach. Also, asking questions while seeking clarification is another very important listening skill,” she says.

4) Team members reacting negatively to constructive criticism.

If a person feels like they’re being critiqued, what typically happens, according to Gates, is that they react to that criticism by withdrawing their cooperation. “They may say, ‘I’m going to stop contributing, because I’m feeling like I’m providing input and no one is validating it,’” Gates says. ‘They’re going to do what they want anyway so why should I invest any more time in the team?’”

The solution, says Gates, is twofold. Firstly, one needs to know how to provide constructive criticism, i.e., phrasing the critique so that it is not personalized or directed at the individual. Secondly, one needs to know how to accept critique. Learning and practicing the skill of constructive critique will create an environment in which team work improves and team members continue to contribute.

Teamwork Takes Practice

Is your team suffering from any of these breakdowns? Then use the above list of reasons why teamwork breaks down as a guide to pinpoint areas for improvement. As Gates likes to say, “You cannot become more effective if you do not reflect on what’s working and what’s not.”

Twitter
Follow Me
Tweet
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Follow by Email
Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

Twitter
Follow Me
Tweet
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Follow by Email
25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

Whenever I’m asked “What are some of the best questions to ask a ...

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

25 Songs For Your Leadership Playlist

What are your all-time favorite leadership songs — the ones that make you ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a question I ask in a survey ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

4 Tips for Failing Forward
4 Tips for Failing Forward

After you make a mistake, it’s easy to focus intently on your defects. And then

Press Release: Be Leaderly’s Selena Rezvani Wins 2019 Croly Award for Excellence in Journalism
Press Release: Be Leaderly’s Selena Rezvani Wins 2019 Croly Award for Excellence in Journalism

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—July 9, 2019—The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is pleased to honor Selena

4 Steps to a Flexible Work Arrangement
4 Steps to a Flexible Work Arrangement

Are you hungry for a little more flexibility in your day?  If so, you’re not

Dealing with a Bossy Coworker
Dealing with a Bossy Coworker

You might expect the occasional “order” or “command” from your boss. But it’s a whole

Press Release: Be Leaderly Wins Gold & Silver at the 2019 Stevie Awards
Press Release: Be Leaderly Wins Gold & Silver at the 2019 Stevie Awards

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—June 11, 2019—Be Leaderly, a globally recognized provider of women’s leadership development and

15 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Stretch Assignment
15 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Stretch Assignment

Stretch assignments are like the Instant Pot of career development. An intensely challenging, ambitious, go-big-or-go-home

How Can Pay Transparency Make a Difference for Women?
How Can Pay Transparency Make a Difference for Women?

It’s well known that women still deal with a pay gap relative to men. But

5 Things to Know About Your Coworkers with Kids
5 Things to Know About Your Coworkers with Kids

You might’ve attended a baby shower in the break room, or maybe you caught a

4 Underrated Elements of a Career Advancement Plan
4 Underrated Elements of a Career Advancement Plan

A vice president of a financial company once told me, “Make a plan—or someone else

Negotiate Through Your Next Performance Review
Negotiate Through Your Next Performance Review

With performance reviews around the corner, I wanted to write a how-to post on negotiating.

Ask Jo: How can I thank my mentor?

Question: I have an incredible mentor. She ...

Teamwork is a Skill. It Takes Practice!

Everyone wants to lead, or be a ...

It’s Worth the Risk (I promise)

This is Sarah. She’s one of my ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a ...

Leaderly Quote: Great Leaders Know When to Step Aside

“Great leaders know when to step aside.” ...

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Copyright 2019, Be Leaderly