There is plenty in the literature to help team leaders be outstanding in that role. From how to design and assemble your high-performing team, to creating and translating your vision, to driving the team and overcoming common obstacles.
There’s far less for those that would be an outstanding member of that team. For those that would ask: “how can I operate in a way that delivers on my personal goals and ambitions, serves my team, delivers collective success and supports my team and its leader to operate at the highest level?”
That’s not to say we’re all moving forward without a single thought for the team. But honestly: how much of our focus is typically on ourselves, our role and getting through our tasks vs. the team.
If you’re thinking there’s more you could be doing to play your part and make a stellar contribution, here are six thoughts to add to your already-in-place foundation of executing your individual role well.
1. Know the Charter
When I work with my leadership clients, all of whom run some kind of team or teams, we talk about the Team Charter: a model of the key components that underpin a team and its purpose for being.
At the centre of that charter is the organisation’s vision, values and purpose, leading to the team’s vision, values and purpose. It’s the team leader’s responsibility to craft and communicate this. But that doesn’t mean we, as team members, should sit back and shirk the responsibility for knowing, understanding and embedding that team purpose in everything we do. We need to work with a sense of team purpose.
- How clear am I on the team charter?
- What do I need more/less of, to improve my clarity?
- What small changes are needed to weave that into my day-to-day?
2. Know your role
High performing teams led by a high performing leader will have a team charter. Off the back of that, they will be excellent clarity on the team vision, values, purpose and goals. Our job as a team member is to know our place in that setup.
And it’s not enough to wait to be told: “this is your role”. Ask – and then stretch the question. What else can I be doing? How else can I serve? I know what good looks like – what does outstanding look like?Know your role – as an individual, as a team member, to your leader and to your team colleagues – inside and out. And keep asking the question – roles and requirements evolve.
3. Focus on the functional building blocks
Namely: Trust. Communication. And Commitment.
The research consistently highlights the same root causes of team dysfunction. And the top of that list includes: absence of trust; poor communications; and absence of commitment. And for us at team members, it’s not enough to say: I’m not part of the problem. We need to amp that ambition and decide to be an active part of the solution.
- How can I engender more trust among my colleagues?
- If I had to choose 3 simple rules to improve my comms, what would they be?
- Scale of 1 – 10: what’s my commitment to the team? And what does it need to be?
4. Know a little about group dynamics
As soon as we introduce other people to the context, the dynamic changes significantly with an exponential increase in the number of relationships. And so it pays to be able to take a mental step back and observe the dynamics at play.
2 great topics to get your thoughts going on this: Transactional Analysis by Psychiatrist Dr. Eric Berne; and “The Drama Triangle” from one of Berne’s students, Dr. Stephen Karpman.
Eric Berne is the creator of Transactional Analysis. And in ridiculously condensed form, it goes like this: any interaction with others will be based on the ego state(s) we are accessing, those being: Parent, Child, Adult. http://www.ericberne.com/transactional-analysis/
As a team member, practise awareness of the ego states being accessed; and the results that they’re getting. Notice the roles other parties play in the interactions. And consider: what ego state do you need to drop into, to best serve the dynamic?
Dr. Stephen Karpman first described the three reactive and problem-focused roles of Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer in a dynamic he named “The Drama Triangle”. https://www.karpmandramatriangle.com/
As important for team members as for the leader, we are looking to be the adult who stays out of the drama and supports the other players to move into more constructive roles:
- The Victim becomes “The Creator”.
- The Rescuer becomes “The Coach”.
- The Persecutor becomes “The Challenger”.
Do you play the part of adult? And do you stay out of the dramas?
5. Spend time in another’s shoes
When I coach groups and teams, I introduce a number of games to encourage us all to spend time in one another’s shoes. For example: to come at a challenge, or design a solution, or stand-up for a need or express a belief from a different perspective. That of a different team role. And it never ceases to amaze participants the assumptions we all work under.
At casual thought, I think I know what my colleagues want and need from me. And I know that they know what I want and need from them. But do we, really? Or do I need to check those assumptions, carefully?
- What “truths” am I operating under that need to be checked?
- What conversations do I need to have to check my assumptions?
- How clear am I and my colleagues on the explicit agreements between us?
6. Drop the expectations, focus on agreements
It’s common language to talk about “expectations”. But expectations are all “over there” and so inherently lack power, influence and responsibility.
Instead, choose to co-create agreements with your team leader and team peers. Have conversations to build powerful agreements that make it clear on what we can count on one another for.