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Real-world relationship management
Alex Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP
Ever had one of those days when you couldn't get everything done by yourself? And a teammate or colleague stepped in to help? Teamwork made your life easier, and then—
Did you just spit out your coffee and say "What?!"
It's OK, I understand. If you're like most people, you've had horrible experiences with team projects.
Maybe "one of those days" reminds you of group projects in high school or college, when "teamwork" inevitably led to discontent. One person usually carried the load—maybe it was you—while your "teammates" goofed off or went out partying.
Team projects in the real world don't differ that much: There's usually one rock star and a whole bunch of bystanders.
Why don't we enjoy working with others? Because we give up the illusion of control. More importantly, we hate teamwork because we've been doing it all wrong (not unlike my favorite Internet meme, "Things You've Been Eating All Wrong"). Bad relationship management habits have become so ingrained that we miss the whole point of teamwork. How? By defining it as what we need from our peers, rather than asking what they need from us.
So what's the key to effective teamwork? Be the teammate you would most like to work with.
When you seek effective collaboration and coordination on a team project, ask your teammates (and yourself) the following questions. The conversation may not yield immediate success, but it will signal your desire for better teamwork. Just bringing up these questions will make you a better teammate and help your teammates collaborate, too:
Alex Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, is senior vice president of knowledge development for SHRM.
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