Teamwork and why your parents were wrong

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Teamwork and why your parents were wrong

Shaggy dogs and black sheep, red herrings and white elephants, I love reading the research into phrases that Albert Jack wrote about. How many of us remember the anecdotes that our parents shared with us as they tried to prepare us for the world of adult life? Sometimes though the world is full of unhelpful help. So how much do you buy into things you read or get told by others?

When looking at how to be successful in the world of work I remember some of the advice imparted to me that didn’t quite hit the mark!

“Practice makes perfect”

No it doesn’t! I have never met a perfect person and never want to. We learn from making mistakes, it’s good for us. The pressure to never make a mistake is something that many people do experience and in many cases this can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety. Practice helps you get better at things, it builds new neural pathways in our brains and if we approach it with the right mindset can be very motivating and empowering.

“Treat others as you would like to be treated”

Why? Life’s not all about me (or you). We humans are social beings, we tend to thrive in groups and therefore we do need to consider the needs of others. “Treat others as they would like to be treated” is a better phrase. Are you curious about the needs of others, do you listen more than you talk? As a society and certainly in our workplaces we need to demonstrate more empathy and compassion at times.

“There is no ‘I’ in team”

Not in the spelling, I agree but there is an important part of “I” in a team. As individuals we must take responsibility and be accountable for what’s ours. Too often these days I see teams where a blame culture is rife and teams where the people have a sense of entitlement. I am convinced that the more you give, the more you generally get back. Our behaviour in a team is ours to own. A team should have a strong sense of the values that underpin the cause they are working towards and individuals who don’t buy into these values are not going to fit the team and should look elsewhere.

“No news is good news” vs “Out of sight is out of mind”

So, which is it then? I hear all the time that people in teams are starved of the information they need to be engaged in their job and therefore to be more productive. If we don’t communicate the right things and do it consistently, the rumour mills, the grapevines and those Chinese whispers will take over. Keeping people in the dark is rarely a good strategy.

“You should haul them over the coals”

This is one I never quite got. When someone is struggling, giving them a severe tongue lashing rarely works. I remember an old boss who thought that doing it in front of 80 people in an open plan office was good business practice… “keeps them on their toes” he would say. No, we just thought he was a loudmouth and very few people respected him. What we need to do is learn to give feedback. Specific and actionable feedback and not just on the things people need to improve on. Giving feedback on the things people do well can have huge benefit in terms of increasing confidence, motivation, engagement and ultimately productivity. We just don’t do it often enough (or in some workplaces ever!)

We need some new phrases

Maybe we need some modern-day anecdotes fit for the world we live in today. If you have any suggestions we would love to hear them. Working in teams can be hard work but it can also be very rewarding. At Zentano we understand the attributes that create high-performing teams yet all too often we don’t see these attributes being demonstrated. If you are a leader of a team and want some help, please get in touch.

The one phrase I do remember that my parents imparted to me that was helpful was “Never be afraid to throw your hat into the ring”. Being proactive and not afraid to challenge myself has been enormously helpful in developing my confidence and my capability over the years. Is there a ring you’d like to throw your hat into? What’s stopping you?