As humans, we do most things in teams. At work, in life, in the community, socially, academically… the list goes on. Working in a team is not just about your own personal contribution. In fact, the single most important thing you can do on a team is to bring out the best in others. If every single person is truly focussed on helping the person next to them to shine, then it is logical that everyone on the team will be better, in every context.
While this may sound like a hard ask, it can be done pretty easily by demonstrating a genuine interest in those around you, caring about how they work and knowing (even a little bit) about them. The first two of these things sit with you (unfortunately I can’t make you interested or care), but I can help you by sharing my top ten things that everyone should know about the people in their teams.
(1) How they like to be addressed
Let’s start simple. When working in a team, what do they like to be called?
In a past job, I was introduced to a colleague named “Steve”. I called him “Steve” every day. I introduced him to other people as “Steve”. Three years later, “Steve” told me he would prefer to be called “Stephen”. I was mortified. Learn from my mistake and avoid this faux pas!
(2) What is their ‘real story’
Sofia works in Accounting and has been working in the team for 5 years. Factual? Yes. Interesting? Moderately. Her ‘real story’? Not even remotely.
This is the stuff you will learn over time as you build trust and show interest. You might find Sofia is Pro Motorbike rider. Or is a wine collector… Getting to know the full person will add to the richness of the relationship and help you understand them better.
(3) The important players in their life
Friends? Partner? Kids? Family? Pets? Who do they go home to? Who do they like to spend time with? Who gives them energy? This is not about prying into a person’s personal life, rather it’s about knowing more about their story.
(4) What they actually do
Sounds like a no-brainer, but knowing what a person actually does and how they fit into the team is super important. This can be especially true for people in technical or ‘new’ roles. “Oh, you’re a Coder, great! Can you help me sync my phone to my emails?” Nothing more frustrating.
Make sure you understand what your colleagues do. Even if this bamboozles your brain with its complexity. Even if it is boring to you. Even if you think it’s not important. Listen. Learn. Appreciate. Respect.
(5) What they are really great at
This includes the job-related stuff (technical skills, industry/customer knowledge) and the ‘life’ things (they know everything there is to know about tech hacks, Greek culture, Shetland Ponies…). This will help you play to the strengths of your colleagues – we all like the things we are good at!
(6) What they are not so great at
If a colleague is not great at public speaking, it is probably best not to ‘select’ them as the representative spokesperson when working in a team or within your group. Not great with numbers? Easy, provide a second pair of eyes over calculations so the collective team achieves great outcomes. Play to strengths, offset weaknesses, leverage the skills of others. Help everyone to look and feel good.
(7) Where they want to go
What are their goals? Do they want a big career? Do they want to be amazing at their current job? Do they like working in a team? Are they looking to cut back to part-time work? A career changes? As a colleague, you are not responsible for getting the person to where they want to go, but knowing the direction they want to head in, can really help align your efforts and thinking,
(8) How they like to work
Are they an introvert or extrovert? How do they like to communicate (face to face, email, text)? Do they think out loud or prefer to reflect and then contribute? Do they like the workspace to be quiet or abuzz with conversation/music? This is the stuff you can usually easily learn via observation or through a simple question.
(9) What they need from you
Do they need information or outputs from you to get their work done? Do they need you to connect them with the right people? Do they need someone to brainstorm with? Do they need peer review of their work? Understanding what the need is, and how you best deliver this will save everyone involved a lot of time and angst, and to put it crudely, will help your team ‘get shit done’.
(10) Their coffee/tea preference (Coke vs Coke Zero, beer vs wine… you get the drill)
Often the most meaningful things are the smallest. A tea and a note on a person’s desk when they are having a bad day can show support in a way no words can. A personalised coffee order for early morning meetings. The first round at after work drinks. The cheeky 3 pm soft drink pick me up. These are the little ‘intimate’ gestures that show connection and genuine great team relationships more than any values poster, tee-shirt or team building activity can.
Knowing these ten things, while pretty simple and practical, will make a huge difference in the type of relationships you can (and will) have with your colleagues. And if everyone on the team has great relationships, really knows and focusses on getting the best out of each other, imagine how successful, and even fun, work could be for everyone.