Working on a team can be challenging for those accustomed to working alone. Teams bring different opinions, ideas and ways of working, which can be incredibly helpful for collaborative projects. However, this environment can sometimes be difficult for those used to independent thinking and solo projects.
If you’re a professional who prefers to work on your own, it helps to have a strategy for approaching and thriving in team-based work environments. To get you started, eight Young Entrepreneur Council members shared their best tips for how you can improve your teamwork skills at work.
1. Practice Active Listening
While it’s important to contribute in a team environment, it’s just as crucial to listen carefully to what your colleagues have to say. That means paying attention to nonverbal cues and body language. It also means refraining from forming your response and counterargument in your head, and instead giving your fellow team member your undivided attention. Encourage the speaker by nodding or giving other signals that you’re actively listening, even if you don’t agree with what’s being said. When your turn comes to speak, you’re far more likely to find a receptive audience if you’ve shown respect for your fellow team members by listening to them actively. – Mark Stallings, Casely, Inc.
2. Take The Lead On Goals And Expectations
I think often when professionals struggle with working on a team, it’s because roles and expectations are not clearly communicated at the beginning of the project. Highly organized individuals can have difficulty when there is a lack of structure. For those who find themselves in this situation and want to improve their teamwork skills, they should take the lead on giving structure to the project. For example, they could start by finding out what expectations and goals other team members have and what their skills and passions are. After that, a plan could be clearly communicated and well-defined roles assigned. This will allow the team to spend more time working independently while still remaining unified and striving toward a common goal. – Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP
3. Improve How You Communicate
Teamwork is an extension of communication. To improve your ability to be a good team member, improve your communication skills. Work on being clear, concise and deadline-driven. If you can adjust your communication to this style, it will minimize miscommunications and make sure everyone is on the same page. Once everyone is on the same page, we can then work together to achieve the goals of the team rather than getting stuck focusing on our own goals only. Everyone working toward the same shared goal with a clear understanding of their roles will lead to more success. – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial
4. Take Notes To Create Clear Talking Points
In the legal profession, many lawyers need to work alone at first to digest copious amounts of information, and often that makes sense before working with a team to strategize. But sometimes a meeting to verbalize the initial strategy is necessary. This isn’t just true in the legal field, but for any service that requires strategy discussions. For those who prefer to work alone, one way to improve teamwork skills is by taking notes during discussions so that when it’s time to speak up, they can address all their concerns at once. This leaves less room for being interrupted, especially if they are clear about needing a specific amount of time to get their point across. – Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office
5. Pay Attention To Your Contributions And Output
Being a good team member requires a balance of hard and soft skills, and it takes time to master both. If I were to give you one tip for getting better at collaborating with other professionals, I’d say pay attention. Pay attention to the group goal and your role in achieving that goal. There’s a common saying that “what gets measured gets improved.” How hard are you working toward team goals? How well are you performing in your role? Honest answers to these questions give you opportunities to improve. Doing your job isn’t enough. How well do you adapt to the changing circumstances affecting the team? Can the leader rely on you to execute instructions? Can your team members rely on you when they’re going through tough times? It starts with measuring output. – Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS
6. Create A Positive Work Environment
Sometimes, improving teamwork skills just means maintaining a positive mindset and sharing enthusiasm for the project you’re sharing. It’s important to create a positive environment to work in as this fosters a welcoming and comfortable workplace. Even remote employees can benefit from casual conversations in chats to lighten up the environment and get along with everyone. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
7. Be Open About Your Struggles
There are many cases where people who struggle to work in a team are feeling that way unnecessarily. They may not be used to communicating with so many people or they’re unaware of the protocols involved in a project. The best thing a person can do is to speak openly about their struggles. Just admitting that they need help or need advice on how to communicate better will open the door to change. Most team members are happy to help each other and show others the ropes. If you’re struggling, start a conversation about it and you’ll be surprised by how the challenges you’ve worked with start to fall away easily. – Blair Williams, MemberPress
8. Express Interest In The Lives Of Your Team Members
A good place to start is by getting to know your team. Simply reaching out and expressing an interest in a team member will help you start building bonds and becoming more invested. If you struggle to connect with others, then try following the principles laid out in How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book has simple suggestions like remembering another person’s name, expressing appreciation and other ways to win people over. When you realize that your team is full of interesting and talented people, you’ll appreciate the opportunity to work with them. Teamwork often leads to personal growth and better skills. Get to know the people in these teams to become more interested in team projects. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner