Career Advice: Seven Deadly Sins

Jan. 20, 2005
If you're not sure what a team is or what it can accomplish, you need to know the seven deadly sins that can destroy your team before it even gets to the huddle.

What is a team? What purpose of a team can't be accomplished alone? What impact does being a team player have upon your individual career? If you’re not sure, you need to become acquainted with the seven deadly sins that can destroy your team before it even gets to the huddle.

Webster’s defines "team" as a number of persons associated together in work or activity. Makes sense. That would define all of us as team members of one sort or another. By that definition, we may not even know we are part of the team.

Whether your team is official or unofficial, make the best of the experience. Consider this little league analogy: One kid is on the team because he loves baseball and wants to play. Another kid is on the team because his dad loves it and wants him to play. The water boy is just happy to contribute in some way. Whatever your motivation, make sure that your membership enhances (and does not detract) from your career objectives.

Sin #1: Not understanding the purpose and goals of the team.

With each team, there is a mission and there are goals to be reached. Make sure the mission is agreed upon and clearly articulated. Have it committed to paper so you can revisit it regularly.

Make sure you clearly understand the objectives and are personally aligned with them. The beginning is not the time to be a yes person. If you have reservations about what the team is trying to do, then make them heard before the team moves too far along. Make sure the goals can be accomplished. There is nothing worse than a team brought together to accomplish something that cannot be achieved.

Sin #2: Not doing your part.

The team, by its very nature, should divide up the workload. You must be prepared to do your fair share. There is a fine line between distributing the workload evenly and sharing the responsibility.

Clear ground rules should be established in advance to address who does what and when. This also includes the reporting mechanism during the process; if reports are due, make sure someone is assigned to prepare them adequately. Winging it is not an acceptable option.

It’s also up to you to make sure the other team members do their share. If the workload becomes unbalanced, then people will start to feel put upon or resentful.

Sin #3: Not attending meetings.

It’s always hard to schedule meetings. If you have a conflict, notify the team early. Even if you cannot stay the entire time, plan to make even a brief appearance. Make sure the number of meetings you miss is minimal. You don't want other team members to think you are not doing your share.

If you are expected to contribute at the meeting, send your notes to the team leader in advance. It will help him or her prepare, and ensure that your discussion is more productive.

Sin #4: Not speaking up.

One of the values of the team is to get every point of view. Balance is what makes the team most effective. Be prepared to state your opinions, even if they might be contrary to those of others. You are not trying to win a popularity contest. You are out to achieve measurable goals.

Speaking up does not mean speaking out. Stick by your opinion, but don't allow it to become a constant source of contention.

Sin #5: Not supporting the team efforts.

This isn't grade school. You may not like every outcome of the team’s efforts, but you are obligated to support the team as a whole. The team must be a cohesive unit in its message to others. Don't badmouth the outcomes or the team itself to anyone else. Remember that it’s not about your personality, it’s about the group functioning as a whole.

Sin #6: Not handling conflict right away.

There are bound to be differences of opinions and disagreements. Handle them in a businesslike manner. Discuss the issues, find a solution, and then move on. Don't get bogged down in arguing small points and lose the impetus of the overall objectives.

Sin #7: Not taking credit where credit is due.

Sure it’s a team and you are a part of it, but it’s also OK to take credit for ideas and success. This is a part of the learning and growing process. Utilize it to your advantage. There are many ways to toot your horn and still be inclusive of the team.

As a team is formed, do one or more of the following:

1. Volunteer to be the team leader. This entails getting to know everyone. It might be a thankless job, but remember, yours will be the first when people talk about the team. That being the case, your name will be first on reports or documents coming from the team.

Caution: If the team’s efforts are not going well, your name still appears first.

2. Volunteer to take the notes - not just secretary responsibilities. Be the conduit to the ongoing efforts of the group. All communications funnel through you. This has endless possibilities to improve your visibility. Every memo should have your name on it and include your contact information. You should include your tag line (not just note taker/secretary but something memorable that will remind people about you and your role within the project).

3. Volunteer for the high profile assignments. As new teams are being formed, seek out those that will provide the most visibility. The best projects are those that have hot buttons or are pet projects of the boss. Many times this enables you to have an up close and personal encounter with them. Use the opportunity wisely.

4. Offer to write an article for the company newsletter about the progress of the team’s project. Make sure everyone is included. Quotes from individuals work great in establishing a bond between you and your team members. You can also ask for opinions outside the scope of the project. This is a great door opener with those who are higher up in the organization.

Note: You are the author/editor. You can contact anyone you want to about the project. Ensure that you are well prepared.

5. Set up the listserv of the email communications for the group. This ensures that you have everyone's email and info. Periodically, send a note to ensure all communications are being received and how the listserv process works. When people have a question, they will come to you for the answer.

6. Seek out PR ops for the team whether interviews or articles result in everyone having a chance to participate. Just be sure everyone recognizes the opportunity originated with you.

Tip: Share the wealth, but don't hog the limelight when it comes to PR. The more individuals you can credit for the success, the more will come back to you with thanks and support.

7. Submit for awards, commendation or honors as a result of the projects outcome. Everyone loves a winner and if you got the ball rolling the company will thank you for it. Maximize the award with press release articles, etc. Just ensure your name is included.

8. Plan to speak at an upcoming conference about the project. Volunteer to be the one that does the presentation. Even though it’s a team effort everyone will remembers the presenter.

Making your star shine as a team member is only limited by your imagination. Think about more creative soft-sell ways to improve your visibility. Just because you are a team member doesn't mean you can't outshine the rest.

About the Author

JoAnn Hines "packages" people. She makes it easy for others to transform their careers in much the same way she did. Her "how to" workbooks, informative articles, and tutorials demonstrate the steps to take career and professional development to the next level. Hines believes in the power of her experience and advice. As a result, much of her advice is free or is offered for a nominal charge. To learn the ropes and "Package Yourself" for success, email her at [email protected].

The secret to being a "shining star" and have others sing your praises is to improve your visibility within the team. There are several ways to do this while maintaining a team player status. This is a soft sell approach. When someone thinks of your team, you want to be positioned in the forefront. You should be the #1 team player. There are myriad ways to accomplish this objective; it just takes a little additional initiative and creativity on your part.

About the Author

JoAnn Hines | Chief People Packager