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September 9 , 2001
the Team Game

by Craig Harrison

Are you labeled "not a team player" for your independence and self-starting nature? Sometimes the flip side of being a loner or self-motivated employee is the perception you're not one of the team.  Yet there are many ways you can meld your talents with others' so as to be recognized and appreciated as a valuable member of the team.

Success Is Not An Orphan

Team players use the opportunity of their own recognition to spread it around. When you are praised for work you've done, remember to temper your acceptance of it with appreciation for those who contributed to your success. Even the pitcher who throws a no-hitter is supported by teammates who score runs and whose defense saves runs their opponent tries to score.

Help You, Help Me

When you voluntarily mentor a new employee you are giving of yourself on behalf of more then the mentee.  You are investing in the future success of the work group and company.  Your willingness to guide and advise another employee cuts down their learning time, helping them become productive quicker, while also strengthening the company's culture of caring. You're forging a strong relationship with another employee and modeling cooperation instead of competition. These are positive behaviors for you and the company.

Eventful Efforts

Efforts of yours that improve office moral are also positive team behavior.  When you organize a recognition event for a co-worker such as honoring a birthday, work anniversary or the successful completion (or even survival) of a complicated project, you are bolstering the team and facilitating team building.   Other moral boosters can include office outings, inter-departmental lunches or special events, or even off-site meetings combining fun with business.

A fast growing company didn't have enough office space for full cubicles for all new hires. One unfortunate hire's assigned cubicle had a giant pole in its midst.  She was stoic, never complaining about her plight.  Co-workers felt for her.  One night they hit the streets, collecting various fliers from telephone poles in their neighborhoods. The next day when the new employee reached her cubicle, the offending pole was now covered with notices about missing pets, renters seeking apartments and even GRE study groups.  Not only did the employee know her co-workers felt her frustration, it bonded them as well as they pulled together to help one of their own.

Form Your Own Team

In unofficial ways you can build your own teams and form your own groups for the benefit of the department.  Consider the following:

  • Record everyone’s birthday and take the lead in honoring each when their day arrives. This doesn’t mean you do all the cooking or pay for all the supplies, just that you alert people in advance, help get a card and/or appropriate gift, and rally everyone to recognize others. (Recognizing others is one sign of good team spirit. The individualist recognizes his/herself first. Team players recognize others first.)

  • Create a program, tradition or tool to help newcomers to your group fit in.  Not only are you helping the group, you’re also building newcomers’ allegiance to you.  They will remember all that you’ve done for them, how you made them welcome when they were new and afraid. You’ve lubricated the mechanism whereby new employees become integrated into the fabric of your group, department or team. That’s the sign of a great team player — doing work for the good of the team.

  • Find a void and fill it for your existing team.  Is there something that can help your existing team: A piece of equipment, reorganizing the office furniture to increase efficiency or comfort, a way you can get your team recognized within the company?  Find needs you can fill, solutions you can provide, and improvements you can make for the betterment of the team.   Ask others for their ideas. Then see if you can improve it for them.  Are employees complaining of backaches, feet aches and headaches?  You, through HR, can bring in a chiropractor or a foot nurse to help your group feel better.

  • Conducting a quarterly survey of the team to find out what they need the most and then share results with management in a nice way.

  • Coordinating your department’s Centipede in the annual Bay-to-Breakers race

  • Take the lead on any project that can benefit all of your team members.
  • Last but not least, bring in a fun, motivational speaker to both entertain and educate employees about ways to enliven the workplace, be more productive or work better as a team.
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"Teaming With Success"
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Teaming With Success


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