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6 Keys to Effective Teamwork

Whether we realize it or not, teams are an integral part of our daily lives. Virtually all human experience involves teamwork. In a relationship? Then you're part of a team. Have a family? That's your home team! Work for a living? If so, your business's success is likely dependent upon the effectiveness of teams to accomplish its goals & objectives. Independently wealthy? Retired? No doubt, you have a team of experts to help you manage your money. Do you vote? What Party (pronounced Team) do you support? Are you religious? Chances are you have an affiliation with an organized group (yet another team) that shares your beliefs.

Teamwork is evident in every aspect of our lives. Just think of the teams of specialists needed to bring the following services to every home, including yours: Power (electric, gas or both?}, heat, water, sewage, telephone, cable & internet service! Likewise, our communities are made-up of teams: Federal, state & local governments, school systems, police, fire & emergency responders, health care providers, insurers - the list goes on and on. Teams are everywhere in our society. And unless you live under a rock, I'm sure you're familiar the ever popular "T-E-A-M = Together Everyone Achieves More!" Or perhaps you've heard the phrase: "There is no 'I' in TEAM". Both seek to inspire & engage us to commit as team members for someone else's cause or purpose.

By now, I'm sure you're saying to yourself, "OK, so what's your point, Dave?" Here's the thing:

Our society values the uniqueness of individuals, but we are dependent upon teams & teamwork

to succeed in life. So what does it take to be successful working with or on a team? To answer this question, I would ask that you consider The 6 Keys to Effective Teamwork as a starting point to stimulate your mind & get start you on a path of personal growth & development to hone your teamwork skills & improve your life.

1. Make a Commitment to Be an Active Participant.

Effective team members are engaged in the work of the team. It takes effort and energy to become an active participant in any team process. Every moment of every day, you choose your attitude. If you take the time to train your brain to think positive thoughts, your will power & attitude will become your greatest assets. Successful teamwork requires you to be self-motivated and interested in the process. Expect to give more than you receive and you won't be disappointed. If fact, you may be surprised by the effect your enthusiasm and energy has on the team - and the ultimate outcome.

2. Identify Clear Goals.

To accomplish anything in life, both personal & professional, you have to identify what it is you want or need. Working with a team, any team, requires that you present your ideas, issues or concerns clearly & thoughtfully. Contrary to what some might think, few of us are mind readers. It's up to you to present your case so that other team members can engage in meaningful thought & discussion. Know what you want to accomplish before you pursue it with others. Be clear with your message and state your goals and objectives simply & directly. Remain open & flexible as you seek consensus, agreement or cooperation from others. Be willing to compromise, when necessary, to gain the trust & support of others. And finally, always respond positively to negative criticism.

3. Learn to Listen & Listen to Learn.

Communication is essential to achieving a successful outcome in every endeavor. Of critical importance is developing effective listening skills. Have you ever caught yourself talking over other people? Or missed what someone was saying because you were thinking of what you wanted to say next? I am often guilty of this myself! If you want to be understood, it is imperative that you really listen to what others have to say in order to better understand their perspective. Ask questions to verify your understanding of their issues. When responding, be open, honest & respectful at all times. Don't allow negative emotions to cloud your judgment. People appreciate your efforts to 'hear them' & will most often be more receptive to what you have to say. As the saying goes. "First seek to understand, and then to be understood." Effective listening builds trust & shows respect for others - a necessity for gaining their support, cooperation and assistance.

4. Stay Objective & Focused on the Problem at Hand.

Every team will experience its share of conflicts & disagreements. How you handle these moments will often determine your ultimate success in achieving your goals. Learning to manage conflict is a skill that requires practice & patience. Your perspective should remain objective. Strong emotions, positive or negative, tend to cloud judgment & reason. In order to resolve conflicts, focus on the problem, not the people. Validate others viewpoints & feelings. Suggest a brief 'time out' when emotions run high on the team. Finally, leading a thoughtful discussion to identify the issues in conflict may prove invaluable to you and other team members.

5. Persevere.

As the saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day." The same is true of the work of teams. Many views & opinions can pose a challenge to achieving even the simplest of tasks unless you are committed to the success of the team. And like most things in life, the greatest accomplishments rarely come quickly or without a substantial investment of time & effort. Some goals may take weeks, months or years to accomplish. Are you willing to champion the idea, project or goal to a successful conclusion? Because your passion & determination will have a direct impact on your success or failure. Make the commitment and don't look back. Of course, evaluate progress along the way & make reasonable adjustments, as needed. But commit fully & completely to the team & its purpose. Help create a vision of the team's goals and accomplishment so that everyone develops a shared sense of responsibility for the outcome of the team's efforts.

6. Show Appreciation.

Everyone likes to be recognized for their efforts. This often universal truth is often underutilized and ignored by many team members. You don't have to hold a title or position to show gratitude towards others - for their time, their talents, their commitment, their passion, their efforts, their caring, their contributions, their support, their leadership, their trust, their attitude - the list is endless. But most important is that your expression be honest. And it must be delivered personally, whether written or spoken, public or private. Without a doubt, this is one of the most powerful & effective team building skills you could employ - at work & at home - that will significantly improve your teams' effectiveness & ability to achieve any goal.

With a concerted effort and a little practice, you will quickly discover that The 6 Keys of Effective Teamwork is a useful guide to working with others in any team environment - at home, at work or at play. And that, my friends, is one powerful way to improve your life!


Dave Fielding is the founder & principal at Engage Consulting Solutions, LLC. As former health care executive, Dave is a passionate business consultant & personal coach who believes that every person has untapped potential for greatness when fully engaged with others to achieve success.

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