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How to Work Effectively in a Team Environment

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“Work effectively in a team environment” is a ubiquitous job description. It’s an important skill for almost every employee to have. Being a member of a team means your work is interdependent. Your ability to do your job is dependent upon others getting their work done, and others depend on you to get their work done. Working effectively in a team environment requires you to communicate well and often. It demands you to be flexible and that you meet your deadlines. It’s also important for you to recognize each member of the team for his important contributions.

Communicate well. Lack of communication is one of the biggest reasons teams fail. Seek input from team members so they feel like a valuable part of the team. Communication establishes trust among team members; it provides the motivation and rationale for why work needs to be done in a certain way. In addition, communicating well can help prevent and resolve conflict. Meet regularly to keep members involved and aware of your work progress. Post decisions where everyone on the team can see them. Don't inundate team members with too much information that it interferes with their ability to do their jobs.

Be flexible. In team work, priorities and responsibility can change instantly. Stay ready to shift focus. Training team members to be able to do parts of other team members’ jobs can be a valuable part of team work; being flexible helps to build appreciation for all the parts of the team.

Meet deadlines. Work hard to ensure you meet established deadlines when you work in a team environment. Others are depending on your work. Negotiate timelines and deliverables with your teammates at the start of a project. Doing so establishes expectations and allows you to have a say in how work gets accomplished. Moreover, you gain a big-picture perspective and understand how your work relates to the work of the organization.

Establish accountability. All team members must be responsible for the success and failure of the project. Although every team doesn’t need a leader, teams require a formal way to ensure everyone does his part. Try using meetings to report on progress. Set up a way for team members to get help so projects don’t bottleneck with one member of the team. Eliminate and replace team members who consistently perform below expectations and fail to deliver their work with the appropriate standard of quality.

Celebrate accomplishments and nurture the team. Team members can get lost in the shuffle, and senior executives may not always recognize the importance of some team members’ work. Openly share kudos and congratulations at team meetings and talk about whose work was invaluable to helping you getting your work done. Take time for the team to get away from routine for more social interaction. Set aside time for team-building activities that help you all get to know each other, your strengths and weaknesses and how you think.

Tip

Work teams are increasingly meeting in virtual spaces, but it's just as important to establish rapport among people who work remotely. Use Web cams for periodic check-ins and meet a few times a year for team-building activities.

Warning

Be aware of the effect diversity has on working effectively in team environments. Diversity helps bring new thinking to project work, but some team members may show some reluctance to working with people who come from different backgrounds. Ensure your organization's culture respects diversity and allows teams to use it effectively for their work.

About the Author

Angela Ogunjimi has been a prize-winning writer and editor since 1994. She was a general assignment reporter at two newspapers and a business writer at two magazines. She writes on nutrition, obesity, diabetes and weight control for a project of the National Institutes of Health. Ogunjimi holds a master's degree in sociology from George Washington University and a bachelor's in journalism from New York University.

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