teamwork skillsAs the saying goes, no man is an island. And there are few men (or women) who can pursue a dream, start a business or chart a new path without some help from other people. Whether the help comes in the form of inspiration, direction, funding, brainstorming, elbow grease or simply emotional support, we all need a handful of trusted cohorts to help us turn our dreams into reality. Even in everyday workplaces, teamwork is vaunted as a means to improving productivity, accomplishing tasks and bonding with coworkers.

So how are YOUR teamwork skills?

Here’s a list of some of the teamwork skills needed to actually benefit from having a team in the first place:

1. Clear Direction – What is the team trying to accomplish? This has to be established clearly from the beginning, or you’ll have chaos at the table. Be sure that everyone understands the significance of the task at hand, any timelines that are in place, and the precise objective of the team’s efforts. Also be clear about any rewards or penalties at stake for good or bad outcomes. The point of working as a team is to bring everyone’s skills and talents to bear on a single objective so that it can be accomplished as efficiently and admirably as possible, so keep that in mind when establishing direction.

2. Participation – Everyone on the team should be there for a reason. They should have unique skills, insights or perspectives to share that will help the team as a whole accomplish their task more quickly and easily. Be sure that everyone on the team has something to contribute and that they ARE contributing it. Some people are natural speakers, while others tend to hang back and need to be drawn out to contribute. Encourage all members of the team to participate and throw their own expertise into the mix. Anyone who refuses to participate shouldn’t be there in the first place; forcing someone to be on a team defeats the purpose.

3. Communication – This is easily one of the most important teamwork skills all teams need. By definition, a team is a group of people who work together and yet cannot read each other’s minds (well, most of the time), so communication is key to accomplishing anything. To communicate effectively, start by listening to everyone’s input equally and sharing honest feedback. Do not dismiss any ideas outright, and be sure to be respectful and open in all contributions. If the point is to accomplish a set task, there might be one person at the table who is “in charge” and speaks more than most, but there should be no one at the table who is marginalized or not permitted to share ideas. Any disagreements should be talked out with an effort to be calm and understanding of the other’s perspective so that they don’t escalate. Remember, the team is there to accomplish something, so be both an active contributor and an active listener. Ask questions and then really listen to the answers you get.

4. Commitment – If anyone in the group isn’t totally on board with the objective that the team is trying to reach, the outcome won’t be as good as it could be. Everyone has to be committed to the task and to contributing their own unique talents, skills and input to the process. If anyone in the group isn’t 100% committed, take some time to try to bring them around by reminding them of what’s at stake. Listen to their concerns and see if there’s a way to overcome any reservations they might have. If they still have no personal investment in the group, you might be better off removing them from the team and finding others who will be, well, team players.

5. Decision-Making – Many teams get bogged down by diffusion of responsibility. If no one person is in charge, then some teams have trouble coming to solid decisions, and when they do, they often make a poor decision that each individual member of the group probably wouldn’t have made if it was solely up to them. Teams with bad decisio-making skills end up sitting in meetings for hours trying to reach a consensus on something and getting nowhere in the process (sound familiar?). It’s important to carefully consider all angles of a problem and discuss possible outcomes and solutions as part of the team’s communication, but in the end, it’s equally important for a team to be able to decide on a course and stick to it. Everyone in the group should have the ability to make an objective decision based on the information at hand. If there are disagreements about the team’s decisions, those should be talked out as rationally and thoughtfully as possible. Share knowledge, help each other get to the same place in the process, and be open to dealing with any issues that might arise. In the end, all members should be able to work for the good of the task at hand and the team as a whole, put aside any irrational objections and act decisively for the team.

Teamwork is vital for accomplishing major tasks, such as starting a business or pursuing a new career. Be sure that your teamwork skills are up to the task, and you’ll be reaping the benefits of having a team in no time. Good luck!

Source: eHow

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