Most people see the world through their own eyes and don’t always remember that other people might do things differently. It is important to remember that each person in a team can come from a different background, have a different world view, and like doing things in a different way.
This was especially apparent to me last week while working with a team that had some pretty dramatic differences. One member is a voracious multi-tasker who thrives in creativity and chaos. He is spontaneous and follows the siren song of ingenuity. The other team member loves structure. He is at his best when doing one task at a time, at his own pace. He is detail-oriented and prefers clear directives and to do lists over free time. Fortunately, these team members are well-suited for their job descriptions and provide a good balance for the company. The only tweak they needed was in the communication and structure of the work.
Here are some tips to help your teams work together effectively, even if you aren’t all the same:
1. Know yourself. To start out with, you need to know how you work best and what your communication style is. Only when you know your own instincts, will you be able to see how you fit into the team, what strengths you bring to the table, and what things you will have to work around. This topic is so important, I will write a separate blog about figuring yourself out. Stay tuned.
2. Observe and ask. It is important to pay attention to the folks who work with you. When you start to see patterns, strengths, and interests, you can begin to determine how you and your teammate are similar and different. Keep in mind that observation can give you a preliminary view of what makes your teammate tick, but actually asking them about themselves can be extremely helpful. Not everyone understands their own process, but some people have a lot of insight into their own work habits. Don’t be afraid to ask your teammates how they prefer to communicate, what type of tasks they like best, and what they think their strengths are. If they know themselves even a little bit, it will speed up your process and start the communication flowing.
3. Experiment. When you have started to put a picture together of what you do well and what your teammates do well, experiment with how to work together more effectively. Try different communication modes or styles, switch up tasks so that they better match interests and strengths, and find ways to compromise on the big differences. Check back for some specific strategies on communication, structuring work, and strengths assessments!
4. Follow up and communicate. After you have some ideas about the qualities of each team member and experiment with some different ways of working, follow up with the team to see if it is effective. Communication is the most important part of this process. Differences are only insurmountable if you don’t communicate about them. When you talk to each other about what works best for you and how you can make a unique contribution to the team, you will be able to work together toward your mutual goals. A team with unique individuals can accomplish much more together than team members who are all alike. Think about the diversity of ideas and skill sets!
Circling back to the “odd couple” I mentioned above, in our team meeting they were able to put into words how they best work. They began to plan for different ways to communicate and to structure the work that support each one’s needs. The detail-oriented, single-tasker has a more set schedule and plans to ask for clarification and structure when he needs it. The creative multi-tasker will continue to innovate and set his own schedule, but will slow down and communicate specific instructions and deadlines when they are needed.
Find your path… to improved teaming!
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