Never before has teamwork been more important to an organization than at present, and never before has it been put to such a severe test. With remote work the norm at many companies during the pandemic, it has become that much more challenging to keep everyone on the same page.
Certainly technology — Zoom, Facetime, e-mail, text messaging, etc. — makes it possible, but the challenge is significant, and will likely remain so. Some 18 percent of the global workforce is currently remote, and 38 percent of companies expect flexible work policies to remain in place for the long term, perhaps permanently.
While those who work from home have been found to be 47 percent more productive than their office-bound counterparts, the question remains as to how teamwork might be impacted.
That brings us to the first quality of an effective team player, and perhaps the most important.
If it was true before, it’s truer now: A team player must be a capable communicator. A great many things flow from there — collaboration, problem-solving, respect, etc. The complication at present is that despite the various modes of technology, things can get lost in translation. Studies have shown, for example, that 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. The solution is to work that much harder at it: Zoom more. Skype more. Talk more. Brainstorm more.
A quote attributed to Vince Lombardi, the late American football coach, applies here: “You don’t do things right once in a while. You do them right all the time.” So it is with a true team player. You want to be the person everyone else on the team can count upon — all day, every day. If you have an assignment, complete it. If you have a presentation, hit it out of the park. Nobody wants to be identified as the weak link in the chain.
It has been shown that one of the roadblocks to team-building is change, like that which everyone has undergone during the pandemic. As a result, it’s essential to be light on your feet, like Jennifer Servedio, the CIO at an American college. When the outbreak occurred, new communication equipment was purchased to allow for remote learning. Classrooms were reconfigured to allow for social distancing. And when she found that communication with her staff was “awkward,” she figured out new ways to engage her co-workers.
An inability to look at oneself honestly can tear at a team’s fabric. Unfortunately, it is all too common. A 2018 Harvard Business Review study determined that no more than 15 percent of a company’s workers were truly self-aware. That speaks to a larger point about emotional intelligence, which encompasses not only self-awareness but self-motivation, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills. Teams featuring members who exhibit those qualities will inevitably be more cohesive, and ultimately more productive.
Embracing a Role
Not everyone brings the same skill set to a team. One blog post, on the website Zippia.com, listed nine different types of teammates — everything from a coordinator to an implementer, from a specialist to a shaper. But no matter what skills a given team member possesses, it is essential that he or she embrace their role. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”
Effective teamwork has been found, among other things, to build an organization’s morale and collective intelligence, while reducing stress levels. In short, it makes for a happier, more productive place. As with other skills, it’s a matter of recruiting the right people, and developing them — making them understand how critical teamwork is, and how much it can elevate the entire operation.