Tag Archives: humility

Five Secrets to Being a Great Team Player

Five Secrets to Being a Great Team Player

GUEST POST from David Burkus

Our world requires collaboration. Just about every job now requires collaborating on teams and every employee’s calendar is full of evidence of collaboration. In one study, up to 85% of participants’ work weeks were spent working in direct collaboration or a result of collaboration with a team.

But it can be difficult to collaborate with people whose perspectives, preferences, and personalities are different from our own. Still, getting what you want from your work and career requires being a great team player. And if you want to be a leader, you’ll need to be a great team player first. (And really…that will never stop…even leaders often lead in teams.)

In this article, we’ll outline the five (5) essential qualities needed to become a great team player—and offer a few ways to develop those qualities and get them noticed.

1. Capable

The first quality is that great team players are capable. This is a fundamental quality of anyone working, really. You must have the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to do the tasks being asked of you. But on teams, it’s just as important to be seen as capable by the other members of your team. The team needs to know they can rely on you—and that when you say you’ll have something completed it will be completed on time and as you said.

Working with teams, the way you demonstrate your capability is two-fold: Do what you say you’re going to do, and don’t say something you don’t know to be true. Over time, keeping these two commitments will demonstrate that you can be relied on—because you are capable.

2. Humble

The second quality is that great team players are humble. While great team players are capable, they also don’t think too highly of the skills and knowledge they have. Great team players don’t think little of themselves, they just understand that the needs of the team come before their own. Humble teammates aren’t fighting for their ideas to be heard all the time or seeking to dominate in debates. Instead, they use their voice to amplify others and contribute the bigger, team-wide wins.

Working with teams, humility is often inferred based on behavior in meetings, whether in-person or virtual. Humble teammates aren’t trying to be the lead role in the meeting, instead they’re often acting as a facilitator ensuring every teammate has a chance to speak. And when they do speak, it’s often to build upon others’ ideas instead of constantly insisting on their own.

3. Helpful

The third quality is that great team players are helpful. The best way to put capabilities and humility into practice is by helping others on the team—not constantly trying to convince others to help you. Great team players are the ones in meetings thinking about what they can contribute and how they can help others get unstuck. At the same time, it’s important to be careful not to over-help and lose the needed time to complete your own commitments.

Working with teams, the easiest way to assess your helpfulness is to audit your calendar. Look at everything scheduled on your calendar last week and compared the appointments that furthered your personal goals versus the appointments that helped others hit their goals. You don’t want helpful appointments to dominate, or even be half and half. But if 25 percent of your calendar is spent helping others, then it’s a safe assumption that they see you as helpful.

4. Flexible

The fourth quality is that great team players are flexible. As teams work to complete projects, changes will happen—pivots are required. All work requires flexibility. But often in the face of change many people respond by becoming more stubborn and insisting even more on their original ideas or plan of action. Great team players serve the team by reading the changes in the environment and helping the plan pivot quickly.

Working with teams, the most common changes that require flexibility often happen around priorities. New tasks get added to the team’s list, or environmental changes reshuffle what is urgent. When that happens, taking the lead to check-in with the team and discuss how changes affect priorities can keep the team more productive and keep you seen as a flexible, but high performer.

5. Purposeful

The fifth quality is that great team players are purposeful. All great teams have a sense of purpose behind their work—they know why their work matters and that keeps them bonded together and motivated to achieve more. Great team players amplify this purpose by becoming a source of supporting stories and constant reminders about that purpose. This includes not just talking about why the work that team does matters, but also how it fits into the larger mission or vision of the organization and why that matters.

Working with teams, the easiest way to reinforce purpose is to share gratitude on a regular basis. But not just any old thank you note. Purposeful gratitude expresses appreciation for the effort someone else put in, but also includes a reminder of how that effort helped serve the purpose of the team. Regularly done, it not only builds camaraderie amongst the team, but it also enhances motivation.

As you review this list, one or two qualities probably stood out as ones you already embodied—but one or two probably stood out as ones you need to work on. That’s true for nearly everyone, and it creates a great plan of action. Get started improving where you need to—and get started getting noticed where you already shine. That will help you not only raise your own performance, but help support everyone else on the team as they do their best work ever.

Image credit: Unsplash

Originally published at https://davidburkus.com on April 10, 2023

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The Power of the Humility Principle

The Power of the Humility Principle

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In 1929, just before the stock market crash, Louis Bamberger and his sister, Caroline Bamberger Fuld, sold their department store in Newark to R.H. Macy and Company for $25 million ($343 million in 2015 dollars). Grateful to the people of Newark for their support, they planned to endow a medical college in that city.

Things didn’t turn out that way. They were convinced by Abraham Flexner to create the Institute for Advanced Study instead, and to build it in Princeton. It would soon be the home of Albert Einstein and would become a beacon for scientists fleeing Europe, who would prove critical to winning the war and making America a technological superpower.

What always struck me about the story is that the Bambergers achieved their greatest impact not through greater knowledge or accomplishment, but humility. They could have stuck to their initial plan, but because they were willing to see its flaws and support another’s dream, they were able to change the world. We rarely understand the full impact of our actions.

Meritocracy and Humiliation

In 1940, James Conant, the President of Harvard, gave a talk at the University of California that was soon republished in The Atlantic magazine. Entitled, “Education for a Classless Society,” it championed the idea of social mobility based on merit, rather than privilege being handed down through inheritance.

Today, Conant’s idea has become inseparably intertwined with the American dream and repeated with almost metronomic regularity by politicians seeking office, parents raising children and educators trying to motivate students. We’re told, “You can be anything you want to” and “You can make it if you try.”

Yet as Michael Sandel points out in The Tyranny of Merit, this sorting system has had an insidious effect on our culture. Those who are deemed worthy get all the benefits that society has to offer. Those that are not are not only left behind, but are seen as “takers” rather than “makers” and therefore undeserving of even basic things like access to health and child care.

The unlucky have come to be seen as culpable and those more fortunate consider themselves beholden to no one. Many in America, especially the two thirds of the country who do not have a college degree, are not only poor, but humiliated, creating opportunities for populist politicians. Elites, for their part, wonder what’s the matter with Kansas?.

Citizens United, The Rise of Regulation and the Decline of Competitive Markets

In 2009, a conservative organization called Citizens United brought a suit against the Federal Elections Commission which argued that limits on corporate political donations violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment. Its success at the Supreme Court led to the rise of Super PACs and nearly unlimited political spending.

At first, things went according to plan. Studies have found that the ruling did indeed help Republicans, especially in their effort to win statehouses in 2010 and take control of redistricting. However, the decision also opened the door to massive funding of liberal causes and Democrats handily outraised Republicans in the 2020 election.

Yet perhaps the most perverse effect of the Citizens United decision has been how it has fed the rise of lobbying expenditures and regulation. When you allow business to invest unlimited amounts of money to influence government, it should be surprising that a significant portion of that money is used to restrict competition.

It’s hard to escape the irony. An organization that bills itself as dedicated supporting free enterprise and “restoring our government to citizens’ control” has not only led to a weakening of free markets but is also deeply unpopular. Pretty much the opposite of what was intended.

Income Inequality and Healthcare Costs

Research from the Pew Foundation finds that inequality is not only at record levels in the United States, but significantly higher than other developed nations. That should be cause for alarm in itself, but there is also growing evidence that there may be a reflexive relationship between income inequality and healthcare costs.

First, let’s start with the obvious. Income inequality has been shown to adversely affect mental and physical health. Part of the reason this is so is that people at the low end of income spectrum suffer from adverse social comparisons, which lead to depression and anxiety. However, evidence also suggests that even higher income people suffer from fear of losing their position, which has larger implications in a more unequal society.

There’s significant evidence that causality runs in the opposite direction. Because most Americans have insurance plans with high deductibles, we’re often getting hit with big out-of-pocket bills. Researchers have found that these expenses are having a measurable impact on income inequality.

Put simply, we’re becoming so worried about money that it’s affecting our physical and mental health and the costs associated with that deterioration in our health that it’s making us poor, creating a vicious cycle that’s bankrupting our mind, body and spirit.

We Need to Think Less Like Engineers and More Like Gardeners

James Conant was a scientist and an educator, not an economist or a politician. Nevertheless, his ideas have deeply contributed to America’s political zeitgeist. In much the same way, the activists at Citizens United probably didn’t imagine that achieving their goals would undermine their aims. Few medical specialists are aware of the economic impacts of health policy.

We usually take action to solve specific, narrow problems within a domain in which we have acquired some expertise. Often, we train for years to develop that expertise and years more to gain the experience needed to plan and implement an effective solution. During all that time, we rarely stop to consider the impact of our work outside our chosen field.

In a sense, we’ve been trained to think like engineers. We identify problems to be solved, reduce those problems to a limited set of variables, develop metrics to evaluate those variables and develop a solution that is optimized for those metrics. Unfortunately, the solutions we create often create even more problems.

That’s the essence of the humility principle. We rarely fully understand the consequences of the actions we take. We live in a world not of linear cause and effect, but complex ecosystems in which even our best laid plans touch of a complex web of ripple effects.

It’s time for us to take a more biological view in which we think less like engineers and more like gardeners that grow and nurture ecosystems. Instead of assuming we can design perfect solutions, we need to take a more Bayesian approach and make our systems less imperfect over time, fertilizing and pruning as we go.

A good place to start is to, like the Bambergers, think less of ourselves and open up to the mysteries of a universe we do not understand, to people who possess knowledge we do not and to the potential of the future as a collaborative project.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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