Why effective teamwork is actually all about you

Over at Code we're all about sharing, be it learnings experiences and challenges or something as simple as a thought-provoking article.

In this spirit, a Project Management colleague of mine recently sent me an article written by Dr. Travis Bradberry called 'How Successful People Handle Toxic People'. I highly recommend you give it a read yourself, but, to summarise for the purpose of this blog, the overarching message I took away from it is was: any positive change you want to make has to start with you. And this rang so true with me.

I firmly believe Project Management isn't just about bringing a project in on time, on budget, producing water tight documentation and managing both internal and external expectations; it's also about leading a successful team. You need brilliant people skills, and how you conduct yourself, build a team and work with your fellow colleagues plays a huge part in that.

Why reflecting matters

Back in October last year, I was one of four lucky Computerlovers who had the privilege of attending a week-long course run by the Zenergy Team on Mastering Collective Intelligence. It was, and still is, one of the best training experiences I have ever had.

Why? Because it made me think lots about me. I learnt things about myself I never realised, and techniques to empower myself to work with and support other people more effectively.

Some people are sceptical about this sort of stuff, finding it all a bit 'wafty'. I get that, but have you ever tried to reflect on yourself in a situation? It's actually bloody hard to look at yourself in the mirror and really do that. I can review all day long, but reflect? That takes more thought. Because it's not about everyone else and what they did, or didn't do; it's all on you.

3 pointers for everyday reflection

Based on what I've learned about reflection, I've subconsciously created three 'check in' pointers that I like to follow -- they might trigger something for you too.

Behaviour

I really believe that the more we look at ourselves and our own behaviour, the better chance we have of influencing those around us by leading by example. I'm not suggesting it's easy and it will happen overnight. And you certainly won't be leaving the office every day with a smug look on your face because you've demonstrated A* behaviour day in, day out.

You'll still get things wrong, you'll still misjudge things -- you're human and nobody is perfect. But hell, I'm willing to try and have a damn good go!

Reaction

This is the biggy for me when talking about this topic. It's important to ask yourself: How do you react to what is going on, and how could that affect others?

Me? I'm an emotional person. I'm not an emotional teary wreck, but I feel it all, for me and every bugger else. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I'm sure if you asked anyone in my team they would say they can read me like a book. Sometimes, that can be a real benefit. Other times I'll admit it can be my downfall, and when I reflect I'll kick myself for letting my heart overrule my head.

Label it whatever you like, but you know what? You can ultimately control these knee-jerk reactions -- and learning to do so can not only reduce your stress levels, but make for a more harmonious working environment all round too.

Impact

Impact is often used with a positive connotation, but your behaviour and attitude can also have a negative impact on people (in fact, an impact you might not never even noticed).

At Code we have somewhat of a mantra that negativity won't be accepted and, in fact, should be actively quashed. It's kind of like the flu; nobody wants it yet it spreads quickly, wearing you down and possibly even making you feel like you want to stay in bed all day...

Negativity in the workplace often takes the form of complaining, about everything from the latest business challenge to the coffee cups in the kitchen sink. But talking about the same things over again and expecting someone else to change things or do something about it for you isn't going to help.

So I encourage people to step it up a level: offering solutions and help is brave, and taking the responsibility for something will actively help others. It leads to resolution and less frustration because you're seeking change for yourself and putting yourself back in control of the thing that's frustrating you.

It all starts with you

We don't have control over everything and everyone (and often the hardest thing for natural problem solvers like Project Managers is to understand and realise this!). The ability to be able 'bin-off' (for want of a better phrase), what we can't control can be a powerful technique. Particularly when it relates to behaviours that only an individual person can recognise, address, and seek to adapt themselves.

To restate Dr. Travis Bradberry conclusions: You are probably much more in control than you realise, because it all starts with you. And if we're all on board with this idea, working together suddenly becomes a whole lot easier and a whole lot more fun too.


The human mind and usability part 3: Decision-making