Bob printed the agenda for the team meeting while letting his mind wander to how the team’s interactions often derailed the discussion and short circuited the path to solutions. He wondered how he would keep Susan from monopolizing the conversation and how to encourage Terry to speak up. He wrestled with the news he had to share and the way he knew it would be welcomed by some and criticized by others, ensuring gridlock that would keep the team stuck. With a sigh, Bob picked up the papers from the printer and headed back to his office to finish his preparations. He knew his team members all meant well, but sometimes it seemed the way they expressed themselves and interacted failed to bolster the kind of thriving teamwork they all wanted.
Some behaviors are counterproductive to creating a psychologically safe team space where shared goals bring teammates together to contribute their best work. Blatantly unprofessional conduct is not usually the problem as this is easy to spot and clearly out of bounds. The troublesome team behaviors are typically more subtle. Still, if left unchecked, they can damage trust and diminish engagement, limit creativity and cut off collaboration. The best way to counteract these behaviors is by intentionally modeling the kind of conduct that promotes teamwork and correct the conduct that hinders it. Check out these four ways your conduct can make or break your teamwork.
Conduct that Builds Trust: Trust among team members is essential to everything else. Team conduct must build trust by demonstrating care for each team member and commitment to the team as a unit. When a teammate’s concern is dismissed without consideration, that individual loses trust that the team will genuinely hear what they have to say. If a team member vents frustrations about the team to others, the team loses trust in that individual’s commitment to the success of the whole.
Conduct that Encourages Engagement: Team members engage with one another on team projects as well as through social interactions that foster relationship-building. Research demonstrates that interpersonal connections are crucial to navigating the disagreements that arise when we work together. Strong team relationships will keep teammates engaged even when they need to have difficult conversations or navigate project challenges. If team members lack empathy or authenticity in their interactions, team engagement will inevitably flounder.
Conduct that Fosters Creativity: The creative process is usually a cycle of idea generation followed by various stages of evaluating and fine-tuning ideas to create an innovative and viable solution. Teammates can support each other throughout this process by valuing each person’s contributions (good, bad, and otherwise) and allow the collective spark to ignite synergy. Yet, competition and early critiques can cut this process short. Team members who compare ideas in a “my idea is better than your idea” fashion or launch into critiquing them too soon can shut down the creative flow and hamper their teammates’ willingness to toss ideas around for consideration.
Conduct that Facilitates Collaboration: Active and meaningful collaboration is the core of thriving teamwork. In order for team members to share their best ideas and work toward collective success, they must be assured that they will be included and appreciated. While not every person’s idea will be a winner every time, it is vital for each teammate to know their contribution is valued and ultimately added to the overall team success. If a team member takes credit for another teammate’s good idea or stellar work, the offended teammate is unlikely to share their best contributions in the future. Similarly, team members who are silenced or uninvited to participate are likely to stop collaborating because there is no place for them in the process.