How to Be a Good Team Player

From time to time, you will be forced to work in a team setting. When it comes to the tech career field, this is all but inevitable. Not only do you have to function in your team setting, you have to be able to effectively collaborate with other teams in the workplace.  When you are a virtualization administrator and you want more physical storage put in place so you can build out a new VSAN cluster, in most situations you would have to work with the storage admins to get it done. Rarely do situations exist where there isn’t any separation of duties.

That being said, working within a team is not always a fun scenario. In fact, it can be the worst. Why? In a team setting your team is only as good as your weakest link. This is true in sports, and the workplace. If you have an amazing offense, but your place kicker stinks, you could lose games for it. If you are a superstar at presenting material to decision makers, but the technical elements can’t implement the ideas, your team is actually terrible. Your great ideas are pointless Let’s explore how to be good team players even in the worst scenarios.

YOU CAN’T BE YOUR BEST ALONE

To start this off, I’m going to suggest you read two books that are crucial to achieving happiness in the workplace and achieving your full potential in the workplace. They are both written by Ted Talker Shawn Achor. The first book you should read is called The Happiness Advantage (read this first), and the other one is titled Big Potential (follow up to Happiness Advantage). The place to start is to become a happier person. This will dramatically impact how you function in a team setting. If you are happier, you will be more productive, more positive and a better team member. As Shawn points out in his book, working more doesn’t necessarily equal success and happiness. Being happy first equals success and productivity in the workplace.

In Shawn’s book Big Potential, he points out how you can’t achieve your full potential all by yourself. Think about growing up and the people who you had in your life who have influenced you. Some of us had lots of support, some of us didn’t, but I think most people can look back and see how their success was influenced by others. Studies coming from the Big Potential book point out that Harvard students who crammed and studied all by themselves fared worse on exams than those who joined study groups and worked together to learn. The workplace is no different. The more we learn to rely on each other’s strengths and less on their weaknesses, the more successful we’ll be as a team.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE SLACKER

At some point in your career you will experience having a team member who just doesn’t do their part. They are slacking. When you get a slacker on your team, it’s hard to not be angry at them for not pulling their weight. This is especially true when you have put in a ton of effort on your part and they do just enough to squeak by. What do you do with “The Slacker?”  What I have found works from past experiences is engaging the slacker head on. I don’t suggest yelling at them… don’t do that!  Instead, help them to understand what their responsibility is and then give them ownership of it. People who take ownership of tasks tend to put forth more effort because they want their work to shine. Think about when you were a kid and your dad asked you to clean the garage because he knew you were the best at it (I’m guilty of using this tactic with my kids). How much effort did you put into cleaning the garage? If you were like me, you owned it and were so happy when your dad looked it over and was amazed at the job you did. The same applies in team setting, engage the slacker and give them ownership of a task.

GETTING WHAT YOU WANT WITHOUT BEING SELFISH

Generally speaking, getting what you want can really be seen as a selfish thing. It doesn’t have to be though. Everyone should get what they want, but it’s not always possible.  Contrary to popular belief, compromise is not a win-win situation, it’s lose-lose. In a compromise, each party loses some aspect of what they want. I want to watch Rocky IV for the 100th time, and my wife wants to watch a Hallmark movie. We compromise and watch the Food Network instead. We both lose! I’m not watching Rocky and she’s not watching Hallmark. We need to look at compromises this way in the workplace, especially so in a team setting.

When you want to create a new 50 TB datastore in your ESXi host so you can build out more VMs, but you have to get the approval from the storage admin, who doesn’t want to rack the new disk shelves because he wants to get his storage projection report finished, what do you do? Find a way to work with the storage admin so he doesn’t have to leave his storage projection report to rack a shelf. In return the storage admin works with you to find a way to rack a shelf so you can have your new datastore. So you grab two of your colleagues and they help rack the shelf, so the storage admin can have one more hour to get to a stopping point on his report and come configure the LUN. Win-win! You get your storage and the storage guy gets to finish the report. You both get what you want and no one came across as selfish.

BEING THE EXAMPLE

If you want to be a good team player, you have to set the example. By your actions you need to show your team how you would like to be treated. Talk about confrontation, talk about conflict management, and set rules.  If you set a good example, your team will see that and follow suit.

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