Shirley's Articles / Teamwork and Collaboration

Successful Teamwork Starts With YOU

As the old saying goes, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” There are, however, a number of people that must come together to create a cohesive unit working towards a common goal. If this isn’t the case, a team will likely find itself facing failure.

If you are in a team situation in the workplace, your contributions, actions and reactions will all matter. The better you handle yourself, the stronger your team is likely to become. Whether you’re a manager leading a team or one of its members, creating a successful team is as much your responsibility as it is everyone else’s.

Here are some tips that can help you become a productive, vital part of a team:

Play to your strengths.

Your strengths, skills and abilities are the commodities you bring to your team. Identify them and don’t be afraid to share what you do best. Ideally, your team will include a number of people with varying strengths. When this is the case, it becomes much easier to compensate for any weaknesses.

Identify and be honest about your weaknesses.

Identifying and understanding your weaknesses will help you become a stronger, more valuable team member. When you know where your weaknesses lie, you can take actions to overcome them. Other team members will ideally be poised to step in and help on issues that are not best suited to your abilities. By understanding your weaknesses, you can learn to accept this help without feeling threatened. Essentially, it can help you become a better team player.

Communicate clearly.

Communication is critical for any successful team. To get to a place where the team works like a ‘well-oiled machine’, it’s essential to have clear, concise lines of communication. To do your part, take steps to master some of the keys to successful communication: listen, paraphrase, and reflect.

Listen actively what those around you are saying. This means focusing intently on the person or people speaking and consciously working to digest what has been said.

Paraphrase. Once you feel you have an understanding of what has been said, repeat or more accurately paraphrase the dialogue. This will help you make sure you have a full understanding of instructions, ideas, concerns or opinions that are being shared with you.

Reflect. Thinking before you speak is essential. If you slow down enough to do this, you can make sure you say what you mean and mean what you say.

Do not be afraid to delegate or share work.

While teams are designed to make sure projects or tasks are tackled efficiently and effectively, one or two members quite often carry the load. In the most highly functional teams, every member effectively shares work and contributes to overall success. Tasks must be delegated appropriately based on strengths and weaknesses.

Do not try to grab the limelight.

In a well-functioning team all members are ‘stars.’ As it is in sports, it does take every member performing well to bring home a win. Keep this in mind and try to focus on the task at hand and the role you play in making it happen. The limelight will shine on the entire team – you included – if the assigned tasks are handled with expertise.

Do not shy away from teambuilding events.

Learning to work as part of a successful team rarely happens overnight. It can take time to build trust and an instinctual understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This is where teambuilding exercises and events can come into play. While these exercises can seem silly on the surface, they can pay off by helping members create a cohesive working bond.

While the saying goes there is no “I” in team, this is not entirely true. When every individual learns how to work for the good of the team, everyone wins. The process starts with you.

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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