Career Advancement

5 Steps to A Better Team

At the beginning of Forté’s Women Lead Webinar in January, professional coach Alida Zweidler-McKay asked the audience a series of introspective questions:

  • Do you spend your days doing instead of delegating?
  • Do you feel like you’re missing out on your life outside of work?
  • Do you lie awake at night wondering if you should just quit?

If the answer is yes to any of these, there’s good news. The responses to the questions are just symptoms, not the actual problems. “The real problem is you haven’t made what I call the shifts,” she said.

Through 25 years of studying how people work best, both individually and in teams, Zweidler-McKay has discovered that there are five shifts anyone can make to be a better team player and employee. Some shifts are intuitive (be 100 percent engaged) and some counter traditional wisdom (say no), but together they have led her clients to big promotions, high pay raises and more opportunity.

Shift 1: Be 100 percent engaged and on purpose in your work

“This may sound a bit obvious,” Zweidler-McKay said, “but I have to start with this one because without this, none of the rest matters.” According to a Gallup daily tracking poll, only 32 percent of employees in the U.S. are engaged at work.

In other words, employees who are fully attentive are automatically among the top two-thirds of performers. Being engaged leads to greater opportunity and trust at work – and by implementing the next shifts, you can be fully enthusiastic without the risk of burning out.

Shift 2: Say “No” like a boss

Zweidler-McKay’s second shift may counter to traditional wisdom, but she warned that there are dangers in always saying yes. “If you’re always available and you’re being pulled into fighting fires…chances are you’re not focused on the work an organization really needs you to do,” she said.

Always saying yes leads to longer hours, inefficiency and stress. That is a recipe for burnout.

Delegating day-to-day tasks can give you the space to work on strategic, big picture planning. That sort of prioritizing will add to your reputation rather than detract from it.

Shift 3: Develop a human systems perspective

Zweidler-McKay’s research found that Americans tend to view conflict and teamwork from an individual perspective. If we have a great team or a terrible team, “we usually chalk it up to who is on the team,” Zweidler-McKay said.

But by looking beyond individual personalities and instead focusing on the different patterns within a group dynamic, we can transcend petty office politics.

Using the boss and employee relationship as an example, we tend to assume that all responsibility lies with the boss. But this pattern leaves managers feeling burdened and the employee feeling helpless and unimportant.

Try to shift away from stereotypical, hierarchical relationships and form collaborative partnerships instead.

Shift 4: Move toward conflict

Conflict is inevitable and natural, especially when a diverse group starts to problem solve. But when healthy, creative tension dissolves into petty conflict, Zweidler-McKay suggests that employees consider conflict from a systems perspective:

  • What patterns are at play?
  • What is the underlying cause of the personal drama?

By working through conflicts thoughtfully, employees can earn a reputation for being an effective leader and team member.

To learn about the fifth shift (hint: it’s about investing in yourself), watch the webinar on demand.

A full library of previous Forté webinars are available to Premium Access Pass members. For $100/year, Access Pass members receive exclusive invitations to Women Lead webinars.  If your company is a Forté sponsor you may be entitled to free Access Pass.  Check our sponsors to see if your organization is involved.  Access Pass members also have exclusive use of the Forté Job Center; you can browse positions and post your resumé to be seen by leading companies seeking top talent.

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