- Wise Words -
Teamwork as Leadership.
by jerome wong
Establishing a well-functioning team makes a manager's job easier so he or she can focus on business issues rather than personnel issues. If you can consistently demonstrate that you are a good team player, it will go a long way in getting ahead quickly in your career. Managers avoid prima-donnas as it is a professional and emotional drain so they will try to “manage out” employees who they perceive as high maintenance.
Aside from the obvious benefits of synergies created by having cohesive teams, organizations are becoming much more functionally integrated. This trend is occurring in both academia as well as industry. Teams include members from many more functions and disciplines than previously so it is important to be able communicate and work well with other functions. Engineers paired with marketers, IT with sales, research with finance; the combinations continue to expand.
Good team players have strong emotional intelligence because they are not only open to other people’s perspectives but can actively empathize with others. They are also cognizant of subtle non-verbal cues and incorporate them in dealing with teammates.
Don’t interrupt when others speak, it is both rude and disrespectful. Practice active listening skills where you focus on what others are saying, not thinking about what you want to say next. Your associates will appreciate your attentiveness and managers will take notice when you are respectful of others. This doesn’t mean you can sit back and let others do the heavy lifting as you still have to provide value and input to the team.
Demonstrate teamwork skills in meetings by re-affirming others’ viewpoints before adding your own. This shows that it’s not all about you and that you are able to support and value the opinions offered by other team members. Balance the use of “I”s and “we”s when discussing issues or situations to show you are a team player but are also willing to take ownership of issues.
Leadership is the ability to influence the actions of other people. This should not be confused with management, which is an organizational hierarchy and reporting structure rather than necessarily an action or behavior. You can step up in situations where you may not have a formal management role but are able to convince others to follow your lead. This can even be a more powerful story as you were not in a position of authority or power but yet were still able to convince, persuade, cajole or motivate teammates to follow your guidance.
Leadership does not mean always being the alpha-dog because a room full of chiefs all of the time would not be productive. Good leaders knows when to drive the agenda and when to back off and let others shine. They understand that employees are more motivated when they believe their input and opinions are valued by their peers as well as their managers.
There is a misconception that teamwork and collaboration are valued in some industries more than others. At the extreme, there were some examples which fueled the view that teamwork was not important on Wall Street but was not the case in most organizations and definitely not the situation in today’s environment. Trading desks have to work closely with risk management and compliance departments to get trades approved. Salespeople have to collaborate with traders to balance the interests of the company they work for and their clients. They cannot consistently enter into money-losing trades to please their clients nor can they consistently rip off their clients to maximize profits if they plan on establishing a successful career in the industry. In addition, Finance, like all industries is small. If you have a reputation as someone who does not work well with others these professionals will find that moving forward in their careers will be slower than those who are masters of teamwork.
Successful teams are based on not only alignment of interests but more importantly, alignment of priorities. Teammates may have the same goals but unless the members are equally committed to coordinate and follow the same game-plan, including shared sacrifices, it will be difficult for the team to succeed.
Jerome Wong is Founder & President of Real World Experts, a company focused on providing career advice for college students and Early Stage Professionals. His new book is coming out this fall, "Landing Internships and Your First Job: Why Qualifications are Not Enough".
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