The concept that working together to produce a result not independently obtainable, is frustrating, fulfilling and very necessary in the workplace. Through my experiences as both a manager and a team member, I have gained insight into the best practices and things to avoid, and will share them with you here.
Let’s start with the basic concept of teamwork. I’m inspired by my team; each person is talented and capable (I don’t suffer fools), and there is something unique and worthy contributed by everyone. Perhaps the most important skill in management is the ability to recognize everyone’s strength, assemble the right team and understand the importance of surrounding yourself with good people.
If you’ll indulge me a moment, I’ll demonstrate (you can see my real team in the featured image!):
Ashley: You are game, eager and funny. You sang in your interview!!!
Brad: You make the most mundane announcement intriguing and insightful. Plus, you are tough enough to be a Cubs fan.
Cynthia: I appreciate your experience, patience and that you express gratitude freely.
Heidi: You are thoughtful, self sufficient, organized and an amazing cook.
Jason: You are adaptable, willing to learn, charming and our hilarious office frat boy.
John: You are efficient, flexible and work with your lights off to save the earth. I like your beard.
Joy: You never met a challenge you didn’t like, plus you’re my own personal, much nicer version of Nick Burns with a fabulous wardrobe.
Kathleen: You have quiet confidence and are able to get along with everyone, while reigning in people and their rogue activities.
Marilyn: Thank you for being warm, gracious, and greeting everyone with a smile.
Mark: You are self-directed, detailed, motivated and wear a fashionable tie every day. And you are married to Joy (see above).
Meg: You are graceful, compassionate and tolerant.
Sarah: You are creative, intense and a Photoshop genius.
Stephanie: You are organized, diplomatic and willingly busy.
Susan: I appreciate your enthusiasm, interest and love for your job.
Don’t be misled that I’m manager of the year! I’m impatient, distracted, demanding and hard to please. However, I do recognize my imperfections and I try to focus on the following seven rules in working for managers working with a team:
- Say thank you, and recognize and a job well done.
- Practice presence (I’m absolutely terrible at this, but I know better).
- Provide opportunities for team members to interact with executives directly, and give credit where it’s due.
- Trust them to do their job. There is nothing worse than a micro-manager; it’s stressful both to be one and be the victim of one.
- Give honest and timely feedback, both good and bad. Nothing related to performance should be unexpected. Stay in touch weekly if possible.
- Connect with team members on a personal level. It’s much more enjoyable to know and appreciate the people with whom you work.
- Remain humble; you’re much less impressive without the contributions of your team.
Teammates, here is a quick guide on interacting and succeeding with difficult leaders. These are all things I’ve had to learn the hard way, so if I can help you avoid these perils in any way, I’ve done my job.
- Be direct and confident. Passive aggressiveness is extremely frustrating to big personalities.
- Get to the point. If your idea is well thought out, you should be able to present and summarize it in a few paragraphs.
- Anticipate needs rather than being told what to do.
- Be prepared and make a list. Executives rarely have the luxury of office time, and if you clutter their day with random thoughts and questions, they will avoid you.
- Suck it up! No one listens to a perpetual victim. If you shed a tear, let it be tears of anger and frustration, and then get past it.
- Pick your battles. Don’t argue every point or agree with everything. A CEO once told me that if you have three people in a room all with the same opinion, you have two too many people. However, he also got frustrated with me for arguing too much. Learn the art of blending compromise with authenticity.
- Own your mistakes. Blaming others speaks volumes about your work ethic.
- Most importantly, be yourself. Everyone prefers to be around genuine people.
I’m an idealist and I want to think the best of people. However, I’ve become painfully aware that you won’t always have the fortune to be graced with enjoyable people in the workplace. I completely adore my team and my job now, but I have worked in incredibly tough environments. I’ve been cursed, groped, under-appreciated, underestimated and overlooked. At times it broke my spirit, but I learned something from each encounter. Ultimately it taught me strength, compassion and to work smarter so I can present the best version of myself in the workplace.
Image by Bruce Ferguson.