A skill we all learn as children is the ability to play well with others, and the need for this skill doesn’t go away as we get older. In fact, it becomes vitally important once we’ve entered the workplace.
Employers expect employees to be team players, and teamwork is required in almost every industry, from corporations to information technology to retail. This is true even if your job is primarily individual. You may complete your job duties alone, but you still must think of your work in the context of the company’s goals and communicate your goals and accomplishments.
No matter your role, you must be able to work well with a group—and communicate that fact to recruiters, hiring managers and prospective employers. Thus, an important qualification for any employee or manager is the development of effective teamwork skills.
But what skills, in particular, will strengthen your ability to work on a team? Here are five critical ones.
5 ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR TEAMWORK
Being a good team member means clearly communicating with the group. You must be able to clearly relay the essential information through phone, email, chat and in-person. When communicating, keep a professional yet friendly tone. Remember that verbal and nonverbal communication is critical when working with a group face-to-face.
Another important part of communication is listening well. Everyone needs to listen to the ideas and concerns of all group members for the team to be effective. When team members feel heard, they are far more likely to feel accepted, understood and part of the team.
Remember, effective listening is more than simply hearing the words shared. It involves hearing what’s said and then responding appropriately based on that information. People who “listen” without actually processing what was said to them can hinder teamwork.
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT AND RESOLUTION
Conflict resolution skills are essential to creating a successful team. Even in the best of work environments, a conflict will occur from time to time. Avoiding or creating disagreements will only make things worse. One must be able to negotiate with team members to settle disputes and ensure agreement on team choices.
A reliable team member is a trustworthy team member. You show up on time, meet deadlines and complete your assigned tasks. You also show colleagues and employers that you can be trusted and depended on. If you aren’t reliable, you’re going to drag your teams down.
People are more open to talking with you if you demonstrate respect for them and their ideas. Simple things like calling a person by name, maintaining eye contact and actively listening when someone speaks will make that person feel appreciated.
When you’re able to develop these skills for successful teamwork, your group will maintain a good rapport, meet deadlines, complete tasks successfully and create a network of mutual respect and camaraderie.
WHY TEAMWORK SKILLS ARE SO CRITICAL
In our individualistic culture, it can be easy to downplay the necessity of teamwork. This is a critical mistake. The importance of teamwork at work is vital to the success of the company.
Why? Several reasons.
Teamwork offers the staff the opportunity to become more familiar with each other and learn how best to work together. When employees work together, they grow individually as well. If you want to grow personally, you need to be able to work well in a team.
Teamwork also allows far more to be accomplished. One way that teamwork is sometimes described is as “one plus one equals three.” A group of dedicated employees can accomplish far more than a single, very talented employee.
Additionally, individual weaknesses can be minimized through the efforts of the team. You may be strong in an area where another employee is weak and vice versa. When you work together, you each can work out of your strengths rather than trying to compensate for your weaknesses.
Finally, teams build on each other’s ideas and share in completing assignments together. There are many pairs of eyes to look at the work, which decreases the potential for errors and mistakes.
THE RISKS OF AVOIDING TEAMWORK
Maybe you’re one of those people who prefers to work alone. Is it really that important for you to develop these teamwork skills? Yes, it really is. Here’s what happens if you don’t.
While it may be more appealing to lock yourself in your office and crank through projects alone, you’re missing out on tremendous opportunities for growth AND hampering the overall progress of your company. That’s something you can’t afford to do.
HOW TO BUILD A HIGHLY FUNCTIONAL TEAM
Of course, all this raises the question: how can you build an effective team? You know teamwork is essential and you know that teams can achieve great things, but how can you make this a reality in your workplace?
Here are some essential steps to building a team:
BE A LEADER
Before you can build a team, you must be a leader. This doesn’t mean being in charge. Rather, it means you lead the way in building trust and respect between yourself and the team members. Managers have many responsibilities and cannot be in two places at once. If your teams have faith in you, they can function even when the leader is not present.
CREATE AND BUILD RAPPORT WITH YOUR TEAM MEMBERS
Get to know your team members personally. Show that you value their skill sets and that you want them to enjoy using their skills and experience in their current position. By knowing your team members well, you can assign them to appropriate teams and tasks.
Don’t just delegate. Rather, give teams open-ended projects and let them make decisions as a group. As they make these decisions, they will have more accountability and personal investment in the success of any project.
Once teams have been established, have them do a team evaluation to identify problem areas and come to some solutions. Don’t get involved in team arguments; be the mediator who listens to both sides of the argument. Offer solutions and suggestions to the group and allow them to decide what the best course of action is.
ENCOURAGE INFORMATION SHARING
Any information the team develops or uses should be shared with not only their manager but also with other parts of the company when appropriate. As a responsible leader, you should communicate with your teams regularly to gauge their progress and give them the opportunity to discuss roadblocks in their tasks.
ESTABLISH GUIDELINES AND VALUES FOR EACH TEAM
Without guidelines and values to govern behavior, you are leaving it up to the team to decide how they will function. This can often create a lot of confusion about what roles each team member is playing. When a team has clear boundaries and roles, they can function much more efficiently.
HOW TO HIGHLIGHT TEAMWORK SKILLS ON YOUR RESUME
One other big benefit of building teamwork skills is that they make you much more attractive to prospective employers. However, you can’t simply list ‘teamwork’ as a skill and expect interviewers to know what you mean.
When you are building your skills section of the resume, there are certain steps you can take to emphasize your team skills.
Use relevant keywords from a job opening in your resume to show that you understand what the company is looking for. For example, if a job posting states that a candidate must be able to lead a team of programmers, use that language to highlight your ability to work well as a team leader.
You can use the primary keywords in all parts of your resume including in listing your objective, past job descriptions, your skills section and any other part of your resume that seems appropriate. Your goal is to highlight the fact that in every facet of the job, you have the skills necessary to be a team player. Remember to use them in your cover letter as well. Oftentimes the cover letter is what gets you the interview.
The more you highlight your team skills on your resume, the more likely your chances of scoring an interview. Potential employers want and need skilled team players to improve the quality and production of their company.
BE A TEAM PLAYER
Knowing how to be a team player is just as important as a manager who knows how to lead teams. By learning essential skills in teamwork, understanding their importance and including these details in your resume, you’ll show yourself to be a valuable asset to employers and perform better in the workplace.
Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
The same is true in the workplace. Talent can produce great individual results. Teamwork can create amazing company results.