Employees are collaborating and working as teams more than ever before. An article from the Harvard Business Review entitled “Collaboration Overload” highlights this new workplace paradigm and discusses the skills that it takes to be a good collaborator versus a good contributor.

In order to become a better collaborator, you must start by becoming a better team player. Here are some tips to get you there:

  • Communicate! Effective communication with your team is critical. It’s how we present ideas, provide feedback, and ultimately accomplish goals. One aspect of communication that’s particularly important is empathy. Being a good team player means having empathy for others and using it when delivering messages.
  • Balance the positive and negative. Life isn’t always completely positive or negative. Knowing when to be the skeptic and when to be the cheerleader is important. It’s important to know how to motivate people, and to be able to deliver appropriate feedback in order to keep other team members engaged.
  • Think about workflows. One of the most valuable things a team player can do is be able to articulate how things are done in their department or the company. Not always what the policy is – although that can be helpful too – but how things really get done. Being a good team player means not only knowing how things work around the office, but being able to suggest new and better ways of doing things.
  • Be organized. No one wants to watch someone fumble through a meeting because they’re too all over the place. Disorganization can be misinterpreted as lack of caring and disrespect for other team members’ time.  When working collaboratively, take adequate time to prepare. Don’t assume that everything is immediately accessible.
  • Work outside of your department, company, and industry. Working on a team can be challenging, frustrating, and downright difficult. It can also be incredibly fulfilling, educational, and lots of fun. Look for opportunities to work on teams that allow for both types of experience.
  • Set the right priorities. High performing teams accomplish their goals because everyone’s priorities are aligned. Are your priorities the same as the rest of the team? If they’re not, ask yourself why? It might be helpful to have a conversation with your manager to figure out why there might be a discrepancy between your individual goals and those of the team.
  • Meet your deadlines and keep your promises. When you commit to a deadline, do everything you can to make sure it gets done. Your credibility as a member of the team is important. The quickest way to lose your cred is by not being a person of your word. Obviously, things will happen that might be out of your control, but communicating those challenges to the rest of the team will help bigger alleviate problems moving forward.
  • Understand your influence. Everyone has power and influence. Everyone. It’s important to realize that and use your influence to achieve positive outcomes. Not only is it bad to use your power for the wrong reasons, but it’s equally bad to not use your influence when you could. In those situations, the rest of the team knows that you can change a situation and you didn’t step up.
  • Have fun. Being part of a team should be fun. Yes, there will be tough days. But you really should have more fun days than tough days. The team should find ways to have fun, laugh, and celebrate your collective successes. Building some kind of bond with the rest of the team will help everyone become a better team player.
  • Respect others even when you disagree with them. No matter what happens, everyone individual team member should be treated with and treat others with respect. That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree. In fact, the team might need to disagree to produce their best work. But you can raise questions, show concern, and not agree with respect.

Even employees who are considered “individual contributors” have to work on teams. We all must have the ability to work with others, and it takes a conscious effort to finetune that skillset. If everyone is focused on being a good team player, the collective group will benefit immensely and that will ultimately be reflected in the resulting work product.

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