• Taka

How do I work well with my teammates?

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

Welcome back to my weekly post! This is a question I recently received from one of our members of the TAKAGAI community. Today I will share with you 3 things:

  • Why teamwork is important

  • How you can work well with your teammates

  • What to do when a team member is slacking?

Why is teamwork important?

Because you can achieve so much more working with a team vs as an individual.

Why?

Because each team member will have a unique opinion/expertise in solving the problem.

Why? Because every individual grew up differently with different values, therefore having unique perspectives.

How is that useful?

  • Unique expertise and ideas = more solutions can be considered = better informed decisions = better solutions to solve the problem

  • You learn so much more in a team as you pick on everyone's knowledge/perspectives

  • More manpower = more work done

There were countless times during group projects/organization board meetings where I found this to be true. For example, as we worked on building our fixed-wing aircraft for our senior design project, everyone had a distinct role to play. Because we had a diverse set of eyes on the problem, we were able to approach the challenge from multiple angles. There were things I had simply missed out or things I had never considered. There is always something to learn from your peers and I found the steep learning curve stimulating. I also understood why and how powerful cohesive teamwork can outperform individual efforts.


Charity football tournament, Bristol, UK

How can I work well with my teammates?

This is a question I often get and I have also observed students struggling to work well within their teams. I would say working well with teammates boils down to 4 things:

  1. Understand your team members motivation and have crystal clear expectations

  2. Understand your team members strengths/weaknesses

  3. Respect their opinions and have thoughtful disagreements

  4. Show your commitment by doing

What do I mean by respecting people's opinions? The first thing you should do is listen. I mean REALLY listen to what they have to say. As I mentioned many times, active listening is one of the key soft skills we should continually work on (myself included). Once you acknowledge your teammates' opinion, give them your take on the topic but put your opinion into context. It is your job to link your teammates' perspective, the topic in hand, and your opinion such that they understand where you are coming from. The more you do this, the better you will work well as a team. Over time, you will build a team culture where individuals are expected to appreciate one another's opinion and come to a conclusion after thoughtful disagreements.


The only way to show your teammates you're committed is through your actions. Show up to meetings on time, actively participate in group discussions, take the lead on areas you want to challenge yourself, finish your part of the assignment on time with the highest quality, and so on. There are countless ways to show that you care, and surprisingly, they are simple actions. Every single one of us is capable of doing everything I mentioned above. It comes down to, are you a do-er or not? I hope you choose the former.


What if a team member is slacking? How do I approach them?

It goes back to the first bullet point above. You have to first figure out WHY they aren't putting in the effort as much as your teammates are. Have an honest discussion with the person face to face (of-course maintain social distancing) and ask them what they're thinking. A lot of times, they simply need to be reminded that their input is valuable and the team needs them. Come up with an action plan together and start doing!


As a team member, it is also critical you are aware of everyone's strengths and weaknesses. Just by understanding this, you can assign tasks that bring the best out of each team member! I would also advise you to avoid making assumptions upfront. Before you make an assumption, make sure you sit down and have a conversation. Make an effort to understand what your teammate is thinking. These things take time but you have to show them you care and do everything you can to understand them.


Taka's Tip Top Tips

Next time you meet someone important to you, show gratitude by simply saying "I appreciate you!". It goes a long way :)

Thanks for sticking around! Hope you found one or two things useful and remember, take baby steps and good things will happen eventually. Be yourself and let's get moving!


Yours sincerely,

Taka

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